PARIS (Reuters) – France may have to delay unwinding some COVID lockdown restrictions next week after signs the downward trend in new cases has flattened out after shops were allowed to reopen late last month, two government sources said.
France’s health minister earlier told lawmakers that daily new COVID-19 infections were unlikely to fall to a 5,000 target by Dec. 15, BFM TV reported.
President Emmanuel Macron previously said the threshold was one condition for lifting the lockdown and imposing a nightly curfew, allowing cinemas and museums to reopen and ending the need for people to carry sworn affidavits outside their homes.
Another condition was for the number in intensive care to fall below 3,000. While that threshold may be met, the downward trend in new cases has plateaued at between 10,000 and 12,000.
“That the numbers have levelled off is not good news,” one government source said.
A second government source said that there was link between shops reopening on Nov. 28 ahead of Black Friday and the stagnant numbers, adding that it was imperative not to allow people to become complacent.
“We will not go as far as we would like on Dec. 15th,” the second official said.
A health ministry spokesman did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
Eric Caumes, head of infectious diseases at Paris hospital La Pitié-Salpêtrière, told LCI television that if the French were careless over Christmas and year-end holidays there would be a third wave of the virus in mid-January.
“No, I do not think this target can be reached as the trend downward stopped, it is stabilizing. So it will be difficult to reach that target,” Caumes said.
Health authorities reported 11,022 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday, down from the 12,923 new infections detected the previous day.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Michel Rose, and Dominique Vidalon; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Ed Osmond and Nick Macfie)