Doctors warn Paris ICUs could be overwhelmed by Covid-19 surge

“We will be forced to select which patients get access to the ICUs and which do not in order to save as many lives as possible. This triage will involve all patients, Covid and non-Covid, especially regarding access to critical care for adult patients,” the op-ed read.

As of Saturday night, there were 1,429 patients in ICU in the Ile-de-France region alone, where Paris is located, according to data published by the French health authority, Santé Publique France. The head of the regional health agency (ARS) for Ile-de-France, Aurélien Rousseau, tweeted last week that it aimed to increase ICU beds in the region to 2,250, to cope with rising infections.

The Parisian doctors wrote in their op-ed they had “never experienced such a situation, even during the worst terrorist attacks in recent years,” referring to the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded 494.

“All indicators show that the current measures are and will be insufficient to rapidly reverse the alarming curve of contamination,” they added, pointing to the government’s strategy to curb a third wave of infections.

France has confirmed more than 4.5 million Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic — the fourth most cases in the world after the US, Brazil, and India. A total of 94,492 people have died in the country so far.

How to contain the virus

France is entering a decisive week. On Saturday evening, there were 4,791 people in ICUs nationally, nearing the peak of the country’s second Covid-19 wave, which saw 4,903 people in ICU care on November 16.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is up for re-election next year, has so far resisted imposing a third nationwide lockdown — against the advice of his Scientific Council — citing the potential impact it would have on mental health and on the French economy.

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Instead, the government has favored a 7pm curfew, as well as regional “reinforced health restrictions” which allow schools in many areas to remain open, but require non-essential stores to close and limit people’s movement to a 10-kilometer radius unless they have compelling business or health reasons to travel further.

Many medical workers have urged the French government in recent weeks to impose stronger national restrictions, in light of the contagious B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom and is now dominant in France.

At the end of a tense EU summit on Thursday night, the French president defended his decision not to implement a lockdown at the end of January.

“We didn’t have the explosion of cases that every model predicted,” Macron said in a press conference. “There won’t be a mea culpa from me. I don’t have remorse and won’t acknowledge failure,” he added.

But according to the Parisian doctors’ op-ed, current measures aren’t enough to contain the virus, and the national vaccination campaign has not advanced enough to “have any significant impact on the evolution of the outbreak in this period.”

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Macron has said accelerating vaccination is a “national priority,” though he has also acknowledged shortfalls in Europe’s “ambition” around vaccines in the bloc.

French veterinarians and dentists are now allowed to administer Covid-19 vaccines in the country in order to “speed up the campaign.” A total of 7,550,454 people in France (11.2% of its population) have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of Sunday, according to government data.

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