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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Pandemic situation in France alarming, government takes inconsistent steps

By: V4 Agency

The situation is deteriorating by the day, especially in and around the capital, where authorities are concerned that hospitals and clinics wil not be able to receive severely ill patients. Tensions are also rising between the government and the capital’s leadership, who are unable to agree on certain measures. GPs complain that they won’t receive enough vaccines because of the inoculation campaign to be launched in the pharmacies.

Several French départements have declared a state of emergency due to an increasing number of diseases. The situation is particularly alarming in Paris and the surrounding Ile-de-France region. As V4NA reported earlier, regional health authorities (ARS) called on hospitals and clinics, including private institutions, to reschedule 40 per cent of surgeries and other surgical interventions to free up room and staff to care for coronavirus patients. Currently 80 per cent of ICU beds are occupied in hospitals in the region around the capital, which means that the situation is extremely serious.

Although at first only the non-urgent surgical interventions will be postponed, rescheduling is a serious blow to public health authorities in France, because some patients have been waiting for their surgeries for a year now, said Jean-Michel Constantin, head of SFAR’s Society of Anaesthesia and Resuscitation.

Axel Kahn, president of the National League Against Cancer, has also expressed concerns over insufficiencies with regard to cancer patients’ medical care. He is worried that thousands of cancer patients may die in the next five years as a consequence of cancelled treatments and interventions, meaning that certain patients who might have otherwise lived will be lost, BFMTV reports.

Tensions stemming from disagreements are also mounting between the French government and the capital’s management. Although the government had plans to impose a weekend lockdown in Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo rejected the idea and even complained about police stopping people on casual strolls along the banks of the River Seine over the weekend. She stressed that she will hold the police prefect to account for deploying officers, who were tasked with forming a human chain to block people from reaching the embankment.

The mayor of Paris argues that residents should be allowed not only to take walks in parks or along the Seine, but also to visit cinemas, museums and theatres because people need to relax for their mental health.

The government is also completely inconsistent when it comes to imposing regional lockdowns. A couple of days after the government announced its intention to lock down Paris for the weekend, Health Director Jerome Salomon said on Tuesday that a lockdown was “not on the agenda”, as the healthcare system can hold out thanks to the population’s mobilisation. Mr Salomon stressed that the country is facing extremely difficult weeks to come, a race against time to fight the virus, and cooperation is needed from everyone. He added that the restrictions already in place are viewed as sufficient.

Axel Kahn, president of the National League Against Cancer, was quick to respond to Jérome Salomon’s statement, saying Mr Salomon was wrong when he said there was no need to introduce regional lockdowns. Mr Kahn talked about the use of double standards in this regard, adding that the government is making a major political mistake that will have serious consequences for people’s health.

Meanwhile, the French government is doing all it can to step up its vaccination campaign. Although the country’s pharmacies will also be administering vaccines starting from 15 March, the availability of vaccines does pose a problem. To deliver the necessary doses to pharmacies, batches intended for administration by general practitioners are transferred to pharmacies, which causes concerns, because the country’s vaccine supplies are running low.

The French Medical Chamber appealed to Health Minister Olivier Veran in a letter, asking him to refute a message received from the French public health authority (DGS) informing doctors that, as of 8 March, pharmacies are only allowed to buy doses that are used for inoculation at pharmacies and can no longer procure vaccines on orders placed by doctors.

The message has provoked a general outcry among doctors. One physician has even sent a video message to those responsible, asking the ministry to reconsider its absurd provision. He claimed that he had already scheduled patients for vaccination, adding that the new rule puts that plan in jeopardy. He added that the vaccinations should be running in parallel, both in doctors’ offices and the pharmacies, because an alternating method will not speed up the process.

Sensing the pressure, the French public health authority announced that the vaccination campaign in pharmacies will start on 15 March and that the jabs will be available again to all health workers in question from that week onwards. However, epidemiologist Jerome Salomon added that the delivery of vaccines to doctors will depend on laboratory supplies and the schedule of care, Le Parisien writes.


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