Covid-19: France extends coronavirus lockdown as ‘difficult days’ loom

coronavirus , Wuhan, Covid-19, health, China, warning, travel, mers, sars, Coronavirus outbreak, tourists, Visa, Flight, Middle east, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Italy

Paris - 365 people died and more than 2,300 people were hospitalised in France in a single day.


Published: Fri 27 Mar 2020, 7:42 PM

Last updated: Fri 27 Mar 2020, 10:00 PM

 France on Friday extended its coronavirus lockdown for another two weeks as the premier warned of “difficult days” to come following a surge in cases that is beginning to put the French health system under pressure.

After 365 people died and more than 2,300 people were hospitalised in France in a single day, the military sent a plane Friday to evacuate six patients from the hard-hit east of the country where hospitals are overstretched.

“We find ourselves in a crisis that will last, in a health situation that will not improve any time soon,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.

“The situation will be difficult in the days to come,” he added, as he announced the extension of the stay-at-home order by another two weeks to April 15.

The premier warned the country must “remain extremely mobilised” in the fight against the epidemic that has so far officially claimed 1,696 lives in France.

The toll is only for people who were hospitalised, not those who died at home or in old age facilities, which are badly affected by the outbreak.

Among the recent deaths was that of a 16-year-old girl, France’s youngest coronavirus victim to date.

The country has some 14,000 coronavirus patients in hospital, with 548 placed in intensive care just Thursday. Over 3,300 are in a critical condition.

Having started in the country’s east, the epidemic is now spreading in the northernmost Hautes-de-France, the wider Paris region and other areas with “an extremely high surge that puts the entire healthcare system, the entire hospital system, under enormous pressure,” Philippe said after a cabinet meeting held by videoconference.

The premier said the initial two-week home confinement of all residents except for essential employees, will now last until at least April 15. It was to have ended next Tuesday.

“Obviously this period will be extended again if conditions require it,” said Philippe.

The extension also applies to widespread business closures seen as necessary to brake the propagation of the virus.

On Thursday, the government used a high-speed TGV train to evacuate 20 patients from the Alsace region bordering Germany and Switzerland to help relieve overstretched facilities there.

Another 48 patients will be evacuated from the east over the weekend.

The Ile-de-France region around Paris is increasingly under strain, with 1,300 of its 1,500 intensive care beds reserved for coronavirus patients already occupied.

“We are filling the space to the maximum to accommodate as many intensive care patients as possible,” said Bruno Riou, medical director at the AP-HP hospital group that serves the Paris region.

“We have not yet reached the peak of the epidemic, we will have to find solutions,” he told France Inter, suggesting evacuations may be needed to bring patients from Paris to hospitals in less-affected regions.

French police have issued more than 225,000 fines for violations of the lockdown rules so far, Police Minister Christophe Castaner said Thursday.

Philippe said Friday that lockdown measures were generally well respected, but those in violation “will be severely punished as this concerns the health of all of us and, especially, the most fragile.”

Starting Friday, the Eiffel Tower will pay a daily homage with a special light show spelling “Merci” to France’s healthcare workers, and reminding the rest of the population to “Stay at Home.”

More news from