Corona crisis in France: "We are waiting for the second wave"

There is a new ritual in this curfew, the eleventh day of which begins in France on Friday: Every evening between 7 p.m. and 7.30 p.m., director of the National Health Service, Jerôme Salomon, announces the latest figures on the corona crisis. At that time, the news channels had unusually high ratings. On Thursday evening, Salomon announced the sad number of 365 deaths in the past 24 hours, including for the first time a 16-year-old girl who had no previous illnesses.

There are currently 29,155 infected people in the country, 1,696 French have died since the outbreak of the epidemic. The situation in eastern France has been particularly dramatic for some time. Alsace is considered the most affected region so far.

On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron opened a field hospital in Mulhouse with 30 new intensive care beds in the parking lot of a state hospital. French soldiers had built it up in record time. On Thursday, a TGV express train converted to the infirmary brought 20 corona patients from Strasbourg to Angers and Nantes. From there, they were transported to hospitals in the region accompanied by nursing staff and doctors.

Other patients are flown out in military helicopters. According to an internal note from the German Ministry of Defense, there were initial requests to the Bundeswehr to support helicopter transports. But it is only a question of regional considerations, it was said yesterday from the Élysée. The French Ministry of Defense also confirmed that no official request had been made, Mulhouse being the starting point and epicenter of the epidemic in eastern France. At the end of February, numerous believers were infected in the city of 110,000 inhabitants during an event of the evangelical church "Portes Ouvertes Chrétiennes", in which 2500 people took part. The first reports of shocked nurses, the first pictures of totally overwhelmed emergency rooms and intensive care units came from there.

"It is terrible, there are far too many patients, our rooms are not equipped for this, we do not have enough staff," said a nurse at Emile Muller Hospital in Mulhouse a week ago. Then she described in an interview with the "Parisien" visibly affected the system of "triage", the prioritization of patients: 40- to 65-year-olds would be given preferential treatment, 85-year-olds would only be able to do it afterwards. "Patients are afraid when they come to us, but we are also afraid." Retired doctors are returning to hospitalsExperts are now worried that the greater Paris region will become the next hotspot in the east of the country. "We are waiting for the second wave," says a doctor from a large Paris hospital. Martin Hirsch, director of all Parisian hospitals, had already dramatically appealed to retired doctors and nursing staff at the beginning of the week to report to the Paris hospitals and return to their old jobs. 800 doctors followed the call. Several French MPs who are medical doctors also returned to their old jobs, including Agnès Buzyn, who was Minister of Health until early February.

The situation in the suburbs of Paris, the "banlieues", is worrying. Where the apartments are small and the strict rules of the country-wide curfew often meet with little understanding. "The risk of infection is much higher here," said Romain Dufau, head of the Jean Verdier emergency room in Bondy, told Le Monde ". "It is not uncommon for families of six to live on 45 square meters. The youngsters cannot endure this long and then meet outside." In Paris, the precautionary measures are largely observed by the population, but they are hardly enforceable in the suburbs.

There is not a single intensive care bed left in Department 93; the consequences have been dramatic, since Tuesday the numbers in the Department have increased significantly, among the sick are many young Corona patients. "In the entire room 93 (note from editor: postal code of the Seine-Saint-Denis department) we no longer have a single intensive care bed available." Patients are now being transported from here to Orléans and Rouen, and the hospitals in Paris are now also adjusting to this scenario. The situation will be difficult in the next few days, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Friday morning. "We will have to persevere, but the wave of the epidemic that is currently sweeping through France is now arriving in the Île de France. And the wave is big." According to an analysis of data from the mobile operator Orange, over one million French people have the Paris region left between 13 and 20 March, that is 17 percent of the population who otherwise live here. There are still over ten million left – too many people for a big wave.
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