Paris hospitals on emergency footing as virus cases rise

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People enjoy a drink on a bar terrace in Paris, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. French authorities have placed the Paris region on maximum virus alert on Monday, banning festive gatherings and requiring all bars to close but allowing restaurants to remain open, as numbers of infections are rapidly increasing. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

PARIS – French health authorities on Thursday ordered Paris hospitals to activate emergency measures to cope with fast-rising numbers of COVID-19 patients and announced stricter restrictions in four big cities were the virus is spreading rapidly.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said the virus situation “keeps deteriorating in France unfortunately" with “more and more people infected" and “more and more people who are getting sick.”

Hospitals in Paris and its suburbs activated an emergency plan as COVID-19 patients now fill 40% of the region’s intensive care units.

Veran announced new restrictions in areas where hospitals are facing strain and infections are mounting.

Starting from Saturday, the northern city of Lille, close to the border with Belgium, and the cities of Grenoble, Lyon and Saint-Etienne in eastern France will be placed under maximum virus alert, he said. They will join Paris, Marseille and the island of Guadeloupe in the French overseas.

The maximum alert level implies shutting down bars, implementing stricter measures in restaurants and limiting private gatherings.

Veran noted some “signs of improvement” in some regions which are seeing infections slowing down after new virus rules were imposed. This includes France’s second-biggest city, Marseille, Nice on the French Riviera and Bordeaux in western France.

“We hope we will be able to announce some good news next week,” he said.