French PM warns Covid-19 infection rate headed in wrong direction, public becoming careless

French Prime Minister Jean Castex adjusts his protective mask before taking to the media,  Nantes, France July 18, 2020.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex adjusts his protective mask before taking to the media, Nantes, France July 18, 2020. © REUTERS - POOL

The renewed spread of coronavirus in France could become harder to control without a collective effort to stop a rise in the infection rate, Prime Minister Jean Castex warned on Tuesday.


The public is becoming careless, Castex said, after official data recorded nearly 5,000 new Covid-19 cases from Saturday to Monday. The epidemic has now killed more than 30,300 people in France. 

"If we don't act collectively, we expose ourselves to the heightened risk that the rebound in the epidemic becomes hard to control," Castex said during a visit to an intensive care ward in southern France.

France's seven-day average of new infections climbed to 1,640 on Monday from 1,056 on July 31. The seven-day measure reached a post-lockdown low of 272 on May 27, a little over two weeks after the government eased one of Europe's strictest lockdowns.

But French health authorities on Tuesday reported a further 1,397 new Covid-19 infections over 24 hours, a significant daily increase.

The health ministry website said there were 15 new deaths in hospital due the disease, compared to an increase of 16 over a three-day period between Monday and Saturday, with the total death toll standing at 30,354.

'No one wants to live through that again'

Earlier on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron held a video conference with top ministers from his Riviera summer retreat.

During the meeting it was decided France that would draw up new restrictions for the 20 largest cities to curb the rising infection rate and that a ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people would be extended until October 31.

Some cities have already taken action. Paris on Monday joined Toulouse, Lille, Biarritz and others in imposing a mandatory face mask order in crowded outdoor zones. They are already compulsory nationwide in shops and banks.

The prime minister said the testing rate was "more than satisfactory", with more than 600,000 tests being conducted weekly, but said more could still be done to target and trace those with symptoms, the prime minister said.

Addressing the risk of another total lockdown, Castex said bluntly: "No one wants to live through that again."

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)




Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning