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France’s hospitals on ‘ridge line’ with surge in COVID-19 cases

Hospitals in Paris operating at near capacity, iconic football stadium in Marseille to be converted into vaccination center.

France continues to be on a “ridge line” as the number of new COVID-19 cases exceeded 30,000 Wednesday, according to the latest data from health authorities.

The numbers are the highest in the last two weeks. On Feb. 25, daily infections crossed the 31,000 mark, a figure last recorded around mid-November.

Health officials on Wednesday registered a surge of 30,303 positive cases and 264 deaths in the last 24 hours, despite curfew measures at 6 p.m. imposed since January.

The new cases added to the cumulative total of 3.963 million cases and 89,565 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

After a Cabinet meeting of ministers, government spokesperson Gabriel Attal, addressing a press conference, noted that the number of new contaminations and hospitalizations remain on a high plateau.

“We are still on a ridge line,” he said, calling on people to not “let the guard down.”

The situation remains particularly worrying in the Ile-de-France department, which includes densely populated areas of Paris and Saint Denise, where hospitals have reached near capacity levels. Of the 3,918 patients in intensive care units across France, a total of 1,056 patients are in hospitals in Ile-de-France, with 107 new admissions in 24 hours.

Attal said the authorities may have to carry out medical evacuations of serious patients in the coming days to hospitalize them in other parts of the country.

The government is also working on new health protocols, he added, to allow vaccinated elderly people in care homes to meet their families and is considering the option of a “health pass.”

The proposal of a health pass providing details whether an individual was infected with the virus, had negative tests or has been vaccinated as the basis for access to public places has evoked controversy in the past.

President Emmanuel Macron had expressed opposition to the suggestion of “vaccine passports,” as it would be discriminatory against young people, who are not eligible for vaccination. The right-wing parties have fervently opposed proposals of both the health pass and vaccine passports.

The government hopes to initiate the reopening of public places like restaurants, cinema halls and museums which have been closed since October with increased vaccination. In the last week, the number of inoculations has escalated dramatically after a sluggish pace in January and February.

As of now, 4.164 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine, which is being administered in hospitals, by family physicians and at pharmacies in select regions.

In Marseille, which is on the list of high-risk departments, the iconic Stade Velodrome stadium of the Olympique de Marseille football team will be converted into a vaccination center from next week, authorities announced in a press statement.

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