Fear of corona mutation – France risks the disaster

In contrast to Germany, the French government is relying on significantly milder corona measures. This is a strategy that can also become a risk for the Federal Republic of Germany.

Terror rages on the other side of the English Channel. Many French are currently looking with great concern Great Britain, The corona pandemic is out of control there, the mutation B.1.1.7 is spreading rapidly. Despite this deadly threat, the French government is still trying to avoid the “hard lockdown”. The priorities are clear: the French economy should be spared, schools and daycare centers should remain open.

The corona situation is in France still serious and the country made a false start with vaccinations. The government tightened the exit restrictions again on Thursday, but the shops and hotels, among other things, remain open.

This strategy is extremely risky: It is a “lockdown light”, as it is already in Germany only marginally reduced the number of infections, with schools open, which took revenge in the UK. France is thus risking a corona catastrophe, which harbors a great potential risk in the middle of Europe.

False start with the corona vaccinations

Most recently, over 21,000 new infections were registered in France within 24 hours. That is more than four times the high of 5,000, the President Emmanuel Macron End of October as a target. The 7-day incidence per 100,000 population in the country is 194, with over 70,000 people using the Coronavirus died.

For comparison: Germany reported over 18,000 new infections within 24 hours on Saturday, the 7-day incidence is 139. In Germany, over 45,000 people died with Covid-19 disease. (All figures are from January 16, 2021)

Shopping street in Paris: The shops have so far remained open despite the tense Corona situation. (Source: Reuters)

The current locations in Germany and France are therefore comparable. With one difference: while more than a million people in Germany have already received a corona vaccination, in the neighboring country there are just 413,000 (both numbers as of January 16). The start of vaccination causes great trouble in France, many mayors accuse the French government of failure because many cities wanted to set up vaccination centers much earlier, which the government refused.

Mild tightening announced

But in contrast to Germany, where an even sharper lockdown is currently being discussed, France is still sticking to the milder version. But for concerns about the spread of the British mutation, there are some tightening of the measures: From Saturday, a nationwide curfew will apply from 6 p.m., as Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday evening in Paris. All shops must also close at this time. In addition, the controls for immigrants are to be tightened.

Jean Castex: France's Prime Minister announced on Thursday that the evening and night curfew would be tightened.  (Source: dpa)Jean Castex: France’s Prime Minister announced on Thursday that the evening and night curfew would be tightened. (Source: dpa)

Castex said France would “do everything possible” to prevent the UK variant of coronavirus from spreading. According to him, the tightened curfew will initially apply for two weeks. If the situation worsened, he did not rule out a new lockdown, as last happened in November.

In addition, France is relying on stricter tests for travelers from non-EU countries: You have to present a negative PCR test from Monday to entry and should also go into quarantine in France for a week as a precaution. A second PCR test should then be due. France has already required a negative test for entry from citizens of Great Britain.

Danger from open schools

But that also exhausts the French government’s program to counter this new threat. Initial studies show that the British mutation, which is considered to be significantly more contagious, can be detected in around one percent of those tested. But in Great Britain the mutation only spread rapidly within a month, the 7-day incidence per 100,000 population is currently over 500.

France hopes that stricter border controls can prevent the mutation from spreading in the country, and travel to the island is severely restricted. But the virus doesn’t usually stop at border controls, so the French strategy is risky.

These measures apply in France:
– Evening curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Citizens are only allowed to take to the streets for valid reasons or with a certificate from their employer.
– Mouth and nose protection is mandatory everywhere.
– The non-essential shops – as well as churches – are open.
– Home office remains – if possible – compulsory in France.
– Daycare centers and schools were and will remain open.
– Private meetings should be kept to a minimum. No more than 6 adults are allowed to come together at home.
– Events and large gatherings are prohibited.
– Restaurants, cinemas, museums and other cultural institutions remain closed.
– Universities are to partially reopen from January 25th.

The French schools should remain open “at all costs”. Health Minister Olivier Véran has announced large-scale test series for this. According to him, up to one million students aged six and over and their teachers should undergo corona tests every month. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer now even spoke of “300,000 tests per week”. According to the government’s plan, the schools should become the refuge for the tested.

But that’s not all: the universities in France are also to gradually switch back to face-to-face teaching. From January 25, first year students should be able to go back to the universities, but initially only every second student.

Government gives hope

But there is also good news: According to initial data, the holidays in France have not led to a surge in new infections. This was announced by Prime Minister Castex. Nevertheless, the situation remains worrying.

People in the streets of Strasbourg a week before Christmas: France is trying to prevent another “hard lockdown”. (Source: AP / dpa)

The government’s goal is also for the economy to suffer less damage than the lockdown in spring 2020. There are also good signals for this: finance ministers Bruno the Mayor expects a strong economic recovery in the course of the year despite ongoing corona restrictions.

“I’m really pretty confident that the second part of 2021 will be good for the French economy,” said Le Maire on Thursday. The government’s growth forecast of six percent is still within reach. At the same time he warned: “We have to remain humble and careful, because we have often been deceived by the virus.”

“Too late to stop the mutation from spreading”

Nevertheless, there are also voices in France that are currently not being taken seriously. The country’s health authorities have warned of the risk of the corona mutation. “I am very concerned,” said the head of the Scientific Council, Jean-François Delfraissy, on Wednesday morning on Franceinfo. This variant will continue to spread in France if no action is taken. It is too late to stop the spread. It would be a matter of trying to slow them down through a series of measures, said Delfraissy. It is a race.

Aulnay-Sous-Bois: A dialysis patient receives the corona vaccine from Biontech / Pfizer in a private clinic.  (Source: dpa)Aulnay-Sous-Bois: A dialysis patient receives the corona vaccine from Biontech / Pfizer in a private clinic. (Source: dpa)

In the Paris area there are currently eleven confirmed cases of the mutation, said the head of the local health authority, Aurélien Rousseau, the broadcaster BFM TV. There are around 40 other suspected cases. Recently, cases of the mutated variant of the virus had repeatedly occurred in France – for example at the weekend in Marseille.

Effects on pandemic in Germany

The current situation shows that Germany and France are involved Corona measures and Lockdown are now using different strategies to combat the corona pandemic. While there are more and more tightening of the lockdown in Germany, the partial lockdown has not yet been questioned by the French government. It is primarily about the economy: According to President Emmanuel Macron, the French should still be able to go to work. Open schools and daycare centers are an important condition for this.

But the risky strategy is also a risk for Germany. If the mutation spreads further and faster in France and the French government does not react quickly enough, Germany would not be able to lower its lockdown due to its geographical proximity – even if the situation in the Federal Republic were to improve. In addition, incentives are created near the border for people from Germany to travel to France to shop in stores.

Ultimately, many European countries have been able to learn from the course of the pandemic so far that threats never stop at national borders and that quick and comprehensive reactions are essential in order to get out of lockdown as quickly as possible. In France, they hope that things will be different this winter – and at the same time risk a catastrophe.

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