France's coronavirus infections passed 520,000 as one of the country's top medical figures warned Sunday that the country will face a monthslong coronavirus epidemic that will overwhelm its health system if something does not change.
"The second wave is arriving faster than we thought," Patrick Bouet, head of the National Council of the Order of Doctors, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche. Fresh restrictions to slow the spread of the disease in the country's worst-hit areas, including the Mediterranean city of Marseille and the Paris region, have run into local resistance.
Bouet told the paper that warnings delivered this week by Health Minister Olivier Veran had not gone far enough. "He didn't say that in three to four weeks, if nothing changes, France will face a widespread outbreak across its whole territory, for several long autumn and winter months," Bouet said.
There would be no medical staff available to provide reinforcements, and France's health system would be unable to meet all the demands placed on it, he warned. The health workers responsible for the spring "miracle" would not be able to plug those gaps, he added. "Many of them are exhausted, traumatized."
France reported record figures, daily cases soared past 16,000 for the first time on Thursday. But moves by the authorities to contain the virus are not popular with many because of their painful economic toll. Marseille bar and restaurant owners gathered outside the city's commercial courthouse to demonstrate against forced closures starting Sunday evening.
The number of people in the hospital with the infection also continued its steady ascent of the past month, rising by 97 to 6,128 – with the number of people in intensive care up by 50 to 1,098. Both hospital numbers are still well below their highs of more than 32,000 and 7,100 respectively, set during the peak of the crisis in April.
2M deaths possible
The number of cases worldwide has soared past 32 million, with deaths approaching 1 million, the global economy devastated and major cultural and sports events disrupted.
The death toll from the coronavirus could double to 2 million before a successful vaccine is widely used and could be even higher without concerted action to curb the pandemic, an official at the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday. "Unless we (take action), the numbers you speak about are not only imaginable but sadly very likely," Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies program, said in a briefing Friday.
As the 1 million death toll looms in a pandemic that has surged around the planet, the WHO said the prospect of another million deaths was not unimaginable, if countries and individuals do not come together to tackle the crisis.
The WHO warning came as the United States, the hardest-hit nation in the world, crossed 7 million cases, more than a fifth of the global total despite accounting for only 4% of the world population.
Many European nations, meanwhile, are struggling with new waves of infections. The first Western country to be struck by the devastating coronavirus pandemic, Italy is today an outlier in Europe with limited new cases compared with neighbors.
While France, Britain and Spain logged record daily rises in coronavirus cases, Italy's number has for weeks remained below 2,000.
It has carried out fewer tests, some 120,000 per day, versus France's 180,000, but not enough to explain the sharp difference in new infections. Experts largely point to the success of a severe and lengthy lockdown, combined with collective trauma.
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