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Covid-19: ‘Highly likely’ France will see a second wave in autumn or winter

France is under pressure to make outdoor face masks mandatory across the country amid a spike in coronavirus infections.
France is under pressure to make outdoor face masks mandatory across the country amid a spike in coronavirus infections. © Gonzalo Fuentes, REUTERS
9 min

France's top scientific body on Tuesday said a second wave of the coronavirus was "highly likely" this autumn or winter as the country grapples with a marked increase of new cases of the disease over the past two weeks.

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"France has the situation under control but it is precarious with a surge of virus circulation this summer. The short term future of the pandemic mainly lies in the hands of the population," the scientific committee on the disease said in a statement published by the Health Ministry's website.

"It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter," the statement added.

France could "at any moment" lose control over the spread of the coronavirus, the council warned.

The virus “has recently been circulating more actively, with an increased loss of distancing and barrier measures" since France emerged from a strict two-month lockdown in May.

"The balance is fragile and we can change course at any time to a less controlled scenario like in Spain for example," it said.

France has been seeing an uptick in coronavirus infections and hundreds of new clusters in recent weeks, notably as young people gather at cafés or parties and families meet up for summer vacation.

The country has reported 7,000 new cases in the last week, after bringing the virus nearly under control with a strict two-month nationwide lockdown that ran from March 17 to May 11.

Data released by the health department on Monday showed the number of people in intensive care had risen by 13 since Friday, reversing a downward trend observed since April when French people were still under strict stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the virus.

At the height of the outbreak in April, more than 7,100 people were at one point receiving intensive care in French hospitals, which had 5,000 intensive care beds available when the crisis hit.

The country registered thousands of confirmed new infections last week, prompting some cities or regions to impose local restrictions amid reports of people ignoring social distancing and public mask-wearing guidelines.

Rules on wearing masks outdoors took effect in the hardest-hit areas on Monday, the latest move to tighten coronavirus restrictions after a nationwide decree last month required people to wear masks in all indoor public places.

Beach resorts along France’s Atlantic coast, picturesque promenades along the Loire River and farmers' markets in the Alps are among the areas of France where people are now required to wear masks outdoors. Masks are also required in large parts of the southern French city of Nice, including the tourist boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais.

Prime Minister Jean Castex visited Lille on Monday to take stock of the resurgence of the virus in the northern city, where wearing a mask is mandatory in many open public spaces. Pressure is now growing on Castex's government to mandate the use of masks outdoors nationwide.

French officials have confirmed 30,265 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began, one of Europe's highest death tolls.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday announced that the country's 320,000 homecare workers would each receive a coronavirus bonus of €500.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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