24 Oct 2020

Grim forecast as France exceeds 1 million Covid cases

12:26 pm on 24 October 2020

France's coronavirus cases have surged past a million as the country is warned the virus will linger until at least the middle of 2021.

Yesterday France recorded more than 40,000 new cases and 298 deaths. Other nations including Russia, Poland, Italy and Switzerland also saw new highs.

People wearing protective face masks as a measure against the spread of the Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic, take a tramway on October 22, 2020 in a street of Saint-Etienne, central eastern France.

A French hospital boss says many people are infecting others with Covid-19 without realising they have the virus. Photo: AFP

The World Health Organisation said the spike in European cases was a critical moment in the fight against the virus.

It called for quick action to prevent health services being overwhelmed.

Daily infections in Europe have more than doubled in the past 10 days. The continent has now seen a total of 7.8m cases and about 247,000 deaths.

"The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.

Globally there have been more than 42m cases and 1.1m deaths.

Too early to decide on lockdown - Macron

Speaking on a visit to a hospital in the Paris region, Macron said scientists were telling him that they believed the virus would be present "at best until next summer", he said.

But he said it was still too early to say whether France would go into a new full or partial lockdown.

French President Emmanuel Macron looks on as he speaks to the press after chairing a meeting with the medical staff of the Rene Dubos hospital center, in Pontoise, in the Val d'Oise, on October 23, 2020,

Emmanuel Macron speaks to media after visiting a hospital in Paris. Photo: AFP

An overnight curfew in the country is being extended to about two-thirds of the country - 46 million people - from today for six weeks.

The curfew could be relaxed when new infections dropped back down to between 3000 and 5000 a day, Macron said - a level of infection that was last seen at the end of August.

Meanwhile, the head of a Paris hospital group warned that the second wave of infections could be worse than the first.

"There has been a perception in recent months that a second wave does not exist, or that it is a small wave. The situation is the opposite," Martin Hirsch, the head of the AP-HP hospital group, told local media.

Many of those currently in intensive care in his hospitals were older people who had been self-isolating but had become infected when their children visited them, Hirsch said.

"There are many positive people, infectious, in the streets without knowing it and without anyone else knowing it," he added.

Covid patients currently occupy nearly half of France's 5000 intensive care beds.

And Prime Minister Jean Castex said a further influx of patients was likely - "The new cases of today are the hospitalised patients of tomorrow. The month of November will be difficult," he said.

Spain ponders next move

Earlier this week Spain became the first EU country to record a million cases - but yesterday Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the "real number" of cases was probably more than three million.

Sánchez urged Spaniards to show "determination, social discipline and the necessary union" but did not announce any new measures to combat the spread of the virus.

The health minister and some regional governments have urged Sánchez to impose an overnight curfew but other regional administrations have been reluctant, fearing the economic impact.

The prime minister - whose Socialist party does not have a majority in parliament - said a nationwide curfew would require a new state of emergency and he wants all regional governments to agree before taking this step.

A two-week partial lockdown on Madrid - which had been resisted by city officials - is due to end this weekend and the city will then ban households from meeting indoors between midnight and 6am. Capacity in bars will be limited to 50 percent.

Meanwhile the regions of Castilla y León and Valencia are to impose their own curfews and the southern region of Andalucía is to introduce a curfew in the city of Granada.

People in a restaurant in Granada on October 23, 2020. COVID-19 infections are increasing in Granada (Spain) and the Government of Andalusia decided to make wearing face masks mandatory

A curfew is on the way for the residents of Granada. Photo: AFP

However, Sánchez said the current situation was not comparable to March, when the central government imposed a strict lockdown. The median age of those infected has also fallen.

Elsewhere in Europe:

  • Italy's public health body said the situation in many regions was approaching critical, and complete contact tracing had become impossible. The head of the southern Campania region, which has already imposed a curfew and shut schools, has called for a complete lockdown
  • Switzerland recorded a daily record of 6634 new cases. Tighter nationwide restrictions are expected next week, but are not expected to include school closures
  • Russia registered 17,340 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, a new daily record
  • Poland has entered a nationwide "red zone" lockdown that includes the partial closure of primary schools and restaurants
  • Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis called on Health Minister Roman Prymula to resign after a tabloid newspaper published photos of him emerging late at night, without a mask, from a restaurant that was supposed to be shut
  • Germany recorded 11,424 new cases in the past 24 hours, suggesting a stable situation still under control, with an R rate of 1.1
  • The Netherlands has begun transferring patients to Germany as its own hospitals have come under strain
  • Portugal is imposing a lockdown on three northern districts, affecting 150,000 people - and the whole country will have restrictions on movement for next week's holiday weekend
  • Greece has declared a night curfew in Athens and other areas to come into force today
  • - BBC

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