Soaring virus infection puts more French cities on alert

Stacked chairs can be seen outside a cafe in Lille, northern France, on Saturday 10 October 2020. The French authorities put Lille on maximum virus warning on Monday, banning festive gatherings and demanding that all bars close but restaurants remain open as the number of infections increases rapidly. (AP Photo / Michel Spingler)

Two more French cities joined Paris and Marseille on Sunday, and four more cities are on high alert to fight the coronavirus. Surgical strikes with rigorous new measures to curb the spread of infection.

The prefecture of Montpellier in the south announced a maximum alarm status for the city and the surrounding cities from Tuesday. Measures include closing cafes and bars. The south-western city of Toulouse also did so after a day of meetings between mayors of the surrounding cities and the prefect, the local government agency, Toulouse newspaper La Depeche reported.

Soaring infections and increased hospital stays put four more cities on the maximum alarm list on Saturday: Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne in the southeast and Lille in the north.

National health officials reported nearly 26,900 new daily infections in a 24-hour period on Saturday. The number fell to 16,100 on Sunday, but the rate of positive tests rose to 11.5%. In the past week there were nearly 5,100 new hospitalizations with 910 people in intensive care units. There were 32,730 COVID-19 deaths on Sunday, but the real number is likely higher due to deaths at home and incomplete reporting from hospitals or rest homes.

While France girded itself for a spike in the critical numbers, a consultation by the National Order of Nurses published on Sunday suggested significant numbers of respondents were feeling tired and fed up. 37% said the coronavirus pandemic is causing them to change jobs.

Rising viral infection is putting more French cities on alert
People walk outside a closed cafe in Lille, northern France, on Saturday 10 October 2020. The French authorities put Lille on maximum virus warning on Monday, banned festive gatherings and called for all bars to be closed, but restaurants are allowed to stay open The number of infections is rising rapidly. (AP Photo / Michel Spingler)

Almost 59,400 nurses answered the internal survey from October 2-7 on the impact of the health crisis on their working conditions, of 350,000 in the Order of Nurses. A spokesman for the Order, Adrien de Casabianca, described the survey as a “consultation” without the classic survey methodology.

The numbers suggest that despite the lessons learned from the height of the virus crisis last spring, French medical institutions may not keep pace with growing demand.

The National Order of Nurses states that there are currently 34,000 vacancies for nurses in France.

Nurses and other health professionals in France and elsewhere have sporadically demonstrated for higher salaries, better working conditions and more staff. Starting that fall, they received small increases in salaries in France.

“Today, nurses are grappling with a surge in COVID-19 cases and feeling unarmed to do so,” said National Order of Nurses President Patrick Chamboredon in a statement accompanying the survey.

Rising viral infection is putting more French cities on alert
People wearing masks pass by restaurants in central Lyon, central France on Saturday 10 October 2020. From Saturday, Lyon was put under maximum virus warning. The maximum alert level means closing bars, taking stricter measures in restaurants, and restricting private gatherings. (AP Photo / Laurent Cipriani)

Since nurses are “essential” to the functioning of the health system, “we cannot accept that,” he said.

The head of the infectious diseases department at Paris’ Bichat Hospital, a large COVID-19 treatment center, Yazdan Yazdanpaneh, asked if so many nurses really want to change jobs because “despite everything, people love their jobs”.

“You’re tired … it’s stress, it’s tension, it’s a lot of work,” he said on BFMTV. “We really have to take care of them.”

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