PARIS (Reuters) – French police ramped up checks at train stations and motorways on Friday to stop people breaking a national lockdown ahead of school holidays this weekend, as doctors said they hoped to see a plateau in coronavirus cases in the coming days.
The pandemic has claimed the lives of 5,307 in France. Almost 60,000 people there been diagnosed with the illness, including almost 6,400 on life-support machines, which has put the health system under pressure and overwhelmed hospitals in the Paris and eastern regions.
The government imposed a lockdown on the 67 million population on March 17 and has extended it until April 15 to slow the spread of the highly infectious respiratory disease.
The number of people entering intensive care units has fallen over the last three days and the daily death toll in hospitals stabilised, offering a cautious note of optimism.
Healthcare professionals hope that the first positive results of the confinement could emerge this weekend because the incubation period for the virus is around two weeks.
“We are waiting for impact of the confinement. For now there is still uncertainty on when the flow of those entering hospitals will fall,” said Bruno Riou, who heads up the Paris hospitals’ crisis team.
“The important point will be when we reach that plateau.”
Officials insist that any break in confinement could spell disaster. The government has already indicated the lockdown could go beyond mid-April.
“We will be extremely severe. Those who are hospitalised today and are on life-support are those who didn’t respect the confinement at the start,” Paris police chief Didier Lallement said on Friday at a control point in the capital.
“It’s a very simple correlation. If you don’t respect the confinement, you will be fined and you’re putting yourself and your loved ones in danger and at risk of being in intensive care.”
The warnings have not deterred everybody. At Paris’ Montparnasse train station, some people still sought to get away.
Edgad Ngono, a Parisian businessman, said he hoped to get on a train to join his family in the western city of Rennes.
“I think it’s a way to recharge ourselves because the air in the country is better than in Paris,” he said, adding that he planned to garden and take it easy.
He was turned away by police a few minutes later because he did not have the correct documentation allowing him leave.
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