French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer on Sunday warned that the sometimes fatal coronavirus would likely infect up to 70 percent of the population, as the country prepares to go into partial lockdown. M Blanquer told France Info radio: “We believe that – and I am only repeating what scientists are already saying – between 50 to 70 percent of the population will be infected,” adding that the high infection rate is what would eventually “end the outbreak” because it will help build up “some kind of herd immunity”.
Though conceding he did not know how the crisis would develop, he said the risk was huge.
France has a population of an estimated 67 million.
If two-thirds of the population contracted the sometimes deadly virus, that would mean around 44 million French citizens catching the virus.
According to the latest official figures published on Sunday, France has had 127 coronavirus deaths and 5,423 confirmed cases, including 400 who are in a critical condition.
France’s top health official Jerome Salomon said on Monday that France was struggling to curb the spread of the epidemic in the country.
M Salomon expressed his regret that many Parisians had ventured outside in large numbers on Sunday despite official advice to stay at home and a government shutdown on bars and restaurants around the country.
He told France Inter radio: “A lot of people have not understood that they need to stay at home, and this low level at which people have adhered to measures means that we are not succeeding in curbing the outbreak.”
He added it would be “catastrophic” if France were to reach a stage on deciding whether to save the lives of certain patients over that of others.
He said: “This morning, I appeal to all French people to mobilise in the fight.
“I want our citizens to realise that there are people who are sick, who are in intensive care and that (their number) runs into hundreds.
“There is a real worry that the speed of the outbreak could saturate hospitals and this is something we absolutely want to avoid. That is why we must do everything to slow down the outbreak.
“Each Frenchman and Frenchwoman must tell themselves every morning: how can I reduce by a third or fourth the number of people I approach. Remain at home, it’s as simple as that.”
France is reportedly preparing an order that would put its inhabitants under partial lockdown to combat the epidemic, sources aware of the planning said on Sunday, a move that would tighten further restrictions on public life.
It was not clear whether the government had taken a final decision to order people to stay in their homes or how long the confinement would last.
One source familiar with the drafting of the decree suggested the confinement would begin at midnight on Tuesday.
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