Party or pajamas? New Year’s celebrations in France continue despite record cases of Covid

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Will the French be spending New Years Eve in slippers this year? That was the headline of the French daily Le Parisien, while the weekly Le Point summed up the dilemma in three words: “Soiréeoucanapé? – an evening or an evening on the sofa? This is the question that arises in homes across France ahead of New Year’s Eve, as cases of Covid-19 in the country reach unprecedented levels.

Some decide to go ahead with celebrations despite the increase in cases. RamezSabah, who lives in the western town of Angers with her family, always celebrates New Years with a small group of friends, and this year will be no exception.

“We cannot continue to live like this and avoid others,” he told AXADLETM. The couple are both fully vaccinated and consider the Omicron variant to be less harmful, therefore less anxious to catch the virus.

French public health officials have said Omicron causes fewer hospitalizations than the more dangerous Delta variant, but the government has stressed that with six or seven times the number of cases, even though the strain is less virulent, it will put still straining the health sector.

For Vincent Gomez and his partner Sophie Calzia, who live in Marseille, there was no question of canceling their New Year’s Eve plans. They will be heading to the Alps with a group of friends for a few days of skiing and a party on the 31st. Gomez told AXADLETM he was not particularly worried about Covid-19: those who attended The party who have been in contact with a case of Covid will be tested before he arrives, and he and Calzia are not only fully vaccinated, but also caught Covid just a few months ago.

“It didn’t even occur to us not to go. We were so keen to pack our bags and get away for a bit,” he said, adding that the group of friends were planning to do so. ‘open the windows and try to respect social distancing at night itself.

“While once the party is on, I think these precautions will likely be forgotten,” he said wryly.

A “tidal wave” of casesOn December 29, there was a record of 208,000 Covid-19 cases detected in France over 24 hours, breaking a previous record set the day before of 180,000 positive Covid-19 tests per day. Olivier Véran, the country’s Minister of Health, called it a “tidal wave”.

“This means that 24/7, day and night, every second, two French people test positive for the coronavirus,” he explained. “We’ve never experienced anything like it.”

Samuel (an assumed name to protect his identity) is a young doctor in the emergency room at Beaujon hospital in Clichy, just outside central Paris. He says when he started working in the department in November, they were only seeing one case of Covid-19 per day. Now, that figure has multiplied – and he points out that it is mostly unvaccinated people who occupy hospital beds with more severe forms of Covid.

“We are running out of beds,” he explained. “We lack personnel, we lack material. And meanwhile, the government is investing billions of euros in testing and vaccination. Pharmacies and doctors have endless testing, but there is no money for public hospitals.

The public health sector has asked the government for more money to fill staff shortages, due in part to people leaving the profession due to burnout or having to self-isolate when infected with it themselves. Covid-19.

Jérémy Chancho is a nursing assistant in the emergency department of the Arles public hospital in the south of France.

“Staff are exhausted after two years of this ongoing crisis. Especially since we don’t even see the end of it. A lot of people are on sick leave. Eight of my colleagues are quitting their jobs, trying to move somewhere else or simply to retrain in something different because they are tired of working in these conditions, “he told AXADLETM.

On December 8, eight regions of France activated the “planblanc” which allows health centers to prepare for an influx of cases by reserving beds for Covid-19 patients and by postponing or canceling non-urgent acts.

“All the nurses’ year-end leave has been canceled so that we have enough staff to be able to do our jobs properly,” Chanchousa said. “In 17 years of working in hospitals, I have never seen so many of my colleagues cry after being asked to make even more sacrifices.”

Chanchou believes that the canceled operations risk turning into “a silent health emergency.” The effects of this in a few months will be terrible.

Too much or not enough ?The government has watered down new measures in the past month, clearly reluctant to have to once again impose strict restrictions on the year-end festivities. , testing before attending social events and adhering to social distancing measures, but failed to enforce a curfew (as it did last year) or capacity limits for the events .

On December 27, the government announced that working from home at least three days a week would become compulsory from January 3 whenever possible, and eating and drinking in cinemas, public transport and gymnasiums would be banned, just like standing up to eat or drink in bars or cafes. The government has been criticized for these recent measures, including the decision to make it compulsory to wear a mask outside in Paris and other regions of the Paris region.

Lindsey Tramuta, Paris-based journalist and author of La Nouvelle Parisienne, said she believes the government is prioritizing the economy and is considering the expected candidacy of French President Emmanuel Macron for re-election in the year’s general election next.

“If they wanted to do something more constructive, the government would have delayed going back to school after the holidays and would have been stricter with restaurants, bars and other enclosed spaces. Wearing masks outside of Paris but then removing them inside a restaurant? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. The management of this crisis is now entirely political. The days of whatever it takes are over, ”she said, referring to a speech President Macron made in March 2020, when he said the country would do“ whatever it takes ”to fight against the pandemic.

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