Hospitals in the Paris and Marseille regions of France are delaying some scheduled operations to free up space for Covid-19 patients, as the government tries to stem a rising tide of infections, the health minister said.
As restaurants and bars in Marseille prepared to shut down on Sunday night for a week as part of scattered new French virus restrictions, health minister Olivier Veran insisted that the country was planning no new lockdowns.
Two Nobel Prize-winning economists proposed in Le Monde newspaper this weekend that France should lockdown its population for the first three weeks of December, to allow families to get together safely for end-of-year holidays and to “save Christmas”.
But speaking on LCI television, Mr Veran said “we do not want to confine the country again. Several countries around us made other choices. We don’t want this”.
He urged the French to make an effort to slow the spread of the virus, after health authorities reported 14,000 new infections on Saturday amid a mass testing effort.
France has reported 31,700 virus-related deaths, the third-highest toll in Europe after Britain and Italy.
While at least 10% of French intensive care beds are now occupied with Covid-19 patients, Mr Veran said they were far from saturation.
But he said hospitals in the Paris and Marseille regions were delaying scheduled surgeries to free up space.
Hospitals temporarily suspended such operations when the virus swept through France in March and April, creating backlogs that persist six months later, adding to the strain on patients and medical staff.
Marseille restaurant and bar owners and local officials have protested against the closure order, accusing the central government in Paris of singling out their rival Mediterranean city for punishment.
The government is imposing milder restrictions on Paris and several other cities, with gyms shut down, public gatherings of more than 10 people banned and bars ordered to close at 10pm starting on Monday night.