The “third way”: this is the term supposed to define the new mode of confinement which entered into force since Friday midnight in sixteen French departments, or about a third of the territory comprising about 21 million inhabitants. And this for four weeks.
Problem: the measures announced Thursday, March 18 by Prime Minister Jean Castex are already called into question. Either because of their potential inefficiency, or because of the bureaucratic complications they cause. Summary of a “third way” that questions.
Confined or not? In the maze of attestations …
Since midnight Friday, all the inhabitants of the sixteen French departments concerned by the new containment measures (those of the Ile de France and Hauts de France regions, plus Seine Maritime, Eure and the Maritime Alps) have been subject to a new type of confinement.
They can continue to come and go freely during the day, but only within a radius of ten kilometers for their leisure (30 kilometers for shopping) and without the possibility – except for compelling or professional reasons – to go outside these classified areas. “Scarlet red” because of their very high contamination rate from the coronavirus and the saturation of intensive care beds.
Teleworking, without being compulsory, is recommended 4 days out of 5. The inhabitants of these departments are also subject to the national curfew between 7 pm and 6 am. In these sixteen departments, all non-essential businesses are closed. And this for four weeks.
Two snags in the device, however, occurred on Friday. The first hitch was the significant exodus of Parisians to the province, which could lead to the spread of the virus outside the Ile de France and the upcoming closure of other departments.
The second hitch concerns certificates. While Jean Castex had announced the need to have a traffic certificate during the day, it was quickly abandoned. A simple proof of address will suffice. The travel certificate is ultimately only required during the day for trips of more than 10 kilometers, either within the department or for inter-regional trips.
For travelers from abroad, including Switzerland, the measures are unchanged: need for a PCR test of less than 72 hours, justification of the overriding reason for travel, declaration of domicile to be completed online in order to be able to be located and “voluntary” quarantine of seven days if the trip exceeds 48 hours. Please note: once they arrive in the territory of the sixteen departments concerned, foreign visitors must comply with the new rules in force.
Businesses closed or not? The controversy swells
Schools remain open. But the fact of having decreed the complete closure of 110,000 non-essential businesses in the sixteen departments concerned from midnight Friday immediately opened the controversy over unequal treatment at the national level.
The differentiation between the regions is however logical, given the inequalities in contamination rates and the concern of the French authorities to “territorialize” the approach from now on. Not to prevent: several associations of Parisian traders are already threatening to lodge a complaint with the Council of State, either because of discrimination between activities (in addition to pharmacies and food stores, are authorized: booksellers, record stores, salesmen newspaper, DIY and hardware stores, opticians, tobacconists, telecom stores, e-cigarette vendors, pet food stores, childcare businesses, hairdressers and car dealerships ) or to denounce the discrimination between areas where the population density is comparable (why lock Paris and not Lyon or Marseille?).
According to the Ministry of the Economy, the amount of aid that the State will have to pay to compensate for these cessations of activity will be1.2 billion euros. Currently, the French state is spending 7.2 billion euros per month on anti-Covid measures.
Political failure or health emergency? A bit of both…
At the end of January, while a general reconfinement was expected, Emmanuel Macron had opted for the establishment of the curfew and the “territorialization” of the measures, paving the way for local lockdowns first experienced in Nice and Dunkirk, two centers of contamination. Political will then prevailed over the recommendations of scientific experts. Since then, the situation has deteriorated with, on March 21, 4,353 serious cases in intensive care in the country and 35,088 new contaminations in 24 hours. The measures announced Thursday March 21 therefore prove the failure of this bet. A failure largely due to the insufficient acceleration of vaccinations (5 630 671 French received a first dose, 2,297,100 received two doses and 10,838,940 doses were received ….. against seven million people vaccinated in Germany and 24 million in the United Kingdom) and the saturation of hospital services in Paris and in the Hauts de France.
The issue of hospitals is crucial. Following the first epidemic wave, the number of resuscitation beds in France increased from 5,000 to 10,000 beds …. but this increase was only temporary. These beds came for example from “continuous surveillance beds transformed into resuscitation beds” or “hospital units and in particular outpatient units”, according to a note from the High Authority for Health (HAS).
In short: the emergency capacities released until June 2020 have been dismantled … and must now be reactivated. With an additional difficulty: the impossibility of deprogramming operations already canceled in 2020. Another difficulty: the significant staff needs required by the resuscitation services, which public hospitals can no longer assume, in particular in the Ile de France region.
The “third way” therefore aims above all to act as a palliative: put the regions most affected by the coronavirus in pause mode … while waiting for the vaccines. With another question guaranteed to cause debate: why these partial reconfinement measures are interrupted for the time being on April 17, exactly on the day of the start of the Easter school holidays in the Paris region, good reason for a new exodus of inhabitants from the capital?