The French government is holding emergency meetings on Tuesday over the growing coronavirus crisis. Officials are warning of potential new lockdowns as the country sees soaring case numbers and hospitalizations.
“We must expect difficult decisions,” Interior Minister Darmanin told France Inter radio ahead of the meetings.
President Emmanuel Macron is holding a Cabinet meeting to address the pandemic, while Prime Minister Jean Castex is meeting with lawmakers, unions and business lobbies.
Among the measures reportedly under consideration are extending an existing curfew. A curfew from 9 pm to 6 am is already in place in major cities.
Authorities are also weighing whether to confine people to their homes on the weekends and close nonessential businesses.
Gilles Pialoux, an infectious disease specialist at Paris’ Tenon hospital, old BFM TV “we clearly need to lock down the country.”
Despite the tightest restrictions in Europe, France is struggling to stem the surge in COVID-19 infections. The country reported more than 26,000 cases over the past 24 hours and 257 deaths. The number of patients in intensive care units rose by 186 to 2,770.
Doctors warn emergency services personnel and facilities are under growing pressure. COVID- 19 patients currently take up 54% of intensive care beds nationwide.
Dr. Eric Caumes, head of the infections and tropical diseases department at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, warned the country has “lost control” of the virus.
“We lost control of the epidemic but that doesn’t date from yesterday”, he told broadcaster Franceinfo on Monday. “We lost control of the epidemic several weeks ago already.”
France has seen more than 35,000 deaths, the third-highest total in Europe, and has been reporting more than 350 cases per 100,000 people each week.