“We have been warning for several weeks now that we have not defeated the epidemic,” France’s health minister, Olivier Véran, told French media on Sunday. “The virus has not disappeared. The epidemic has picked up again.”
The number of Covid-19 deaths has risen by 83 percent over the last 14 days, according to a New York Times database. Still, the death rate — averaging about 50 deaths per day in the last week — is far lower than it was in the spring, when the figure averaged more than 1,000 per day. Nonetheless, dozens of cities and regions across the country are preparing to enforce new restrictions on Monday, in an attempt to stem the rising tide of infections.
French authorities have placed a number of French cities, including Paris, Lyon and Bordeaux, on a “reinforced alert” level, which, starting on Monday, will restrict public gatherings to no more than 10 people. Bars will have to close early and enclosed sport establishments must shut down completely.
Meanwhile, hospitals are again under strain, with some 600 new Covid-19 hospitalizations each day since mid-September. Covid-19 patients now represent at least 10 percent of patients in intensive care across the country.
In recent months, France has ramped up its testing policy, with more than one million tests conducted per week, or about five times more than in April. But French laboratories lack the capacity to keep up with the number of tests carried out, resulting in a backlog of tests that have hampered France’s strategy for preventing a second outbreak.
On Saturday, two Nobel Prize-winning economists suggested in Le Monde newspaper that France impose a national lockdown for most of December in order to allow families to gather safely for the end-of-year holidays and “save Christmas.”
Mr. Véran reacted by saying that a lockdown was not part of the government’s plans so far: “We do not rule out any option, but we do not plan for the lockdown option, we act to prevent it.”