The French health authorities said on Monday that the number of patients in intensive care with Covid-19 increased by 102 to 4,974, more than the 4,919 height in the second lock in mid-November.
This week will be crucial for the strategy overseen by President Emmanuel Macron and his government, who claim that every day without lock-in is a bonus for France, which they see exhausted after a year of restrictions.
New tougher measures were introduced on March 20, covering about a third of the population, including the Paris region, but the government stayed away from having full home orders with many shops still open and people allowed to meet outside in small groups.
The pressure is now increasing to close schools and go further, with many doctors and epidemiologists warning the disease is out of control.
“If we reach a point where the risk is too great, we have always said that a deadlock is the ultimate decision, the final resort,” leading ruling party Aurore Bergé told the Public Senate channel on Monday.
She defended the strategy of trying to “find a balance” between dealing with the health situation and at the same time taking into account the psychological effect of lock-in measures, as well as the economic and social costs.
“We will look at the effectiveness of the containment measures in the next few days and we will take others if necessary,” Macron told the Journal du Dimanche on Sunday, adding: “At present, nothing has been decided.”
The 43-year-old head of state resisted pressure from his scientific advisers and health ministers to impose a national deadlock in late January and is under fire from political opponents a year before the election.
France’s rollout of vaccines has also been hit by a chronic shortage of doses.
The daily figures for new infections and hospitalizations make it difficult to read.
Over the past seven days, an average of about 37,000 new cases have been reported daily, which is a quarter compared to the previous seven days, while hospital shortages in the most affected areas are becoming acute.
In total, there are currently 28,000 people in hospitals with Covid-19 in France, slightly lower than the peak of 32,000 hospital stays during the first wave in March and April last year, and 33,500 in the second wave, official figures show.
On Monday, the public health authorities reported that 4,974 people were in intensive care, lower than the peak of 7,019 during the first wave, but above 4,903 second wave heights seen in November.
“The outlook is worse than appalling,” Jean-Michel Constantin told RMC Radio on Monday.
“We are already on par with the second wave and we are approaching the first … April will be awful.”
In the Seine-Saint-Denis north of Paris, the poorest region on the French mainland, the number of cases is now over 700 per 100,000 people, which means that about one in 150 people is infected.
More than 40 doctors and emergency medical directors from the Paris region put their names on an open letter on Sunday, warning that hospitals would soon have to start rationing access to intensive care beds and select patients who were judged to have the best chances of survival.
“We can not remain silent without betraying the Hippocratic oath we once did,” they wrote.
Macron has always made this a red line, saying he would never force medical staff to make such life-or-death choices.
“There is a sense of anger at being in a situation that will force you to take emergency medicine,” Remi Salomon, a senior official at the AP-HP Public Hospital in Paris, said on Sunday.
“In ten days, 15 days or three weeks, we could be overwhelmed,” he told the BFMTV news channel, asking for a new shutdown, including for schools.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)