Paris (AFP)

It goes for Paris and its region, but Pas-de-Calais will not escape containment at the weekend: faced with the Covid-19 epidemic which is not slowing down and the tension in hospitals, the government must announce new restrictive measures Thursday.

"We are seeing strong tensions on the hospital system, an increase in the number of cases but not an explosion, without territorial homogeneity (...) But a national confinement or the weekend is for us only a last resort" , a government source told AFP, without even waiting for Prime Minister Jean Castex's press conference on Thursday.

According to this government source, these restrictions will be applied in these departments, on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with local elected officials, in particular targeting places of mixing.

But the executive's objective is to avoid local reconfinement as much as possible, at a time when neighboring countries such as Great Britain and Germany are moving to gradual deconfinement.

To pass "the heavy weather" that is coming, government spokesman Gabriel Attal tried Wednesday to restore hope, seeing a "return to a more normal life (...) perhaps from mid-April ".

In this perspective, Emmanuel Macron brought together Jean Castex and the ministers concerned on Wednesday to study the different scenarios for reopening public places and the outlines of a possible "health pass" to access them that the Prime Minister could detail on Thursday.

In the meantime, Pas-de-Calais will be the first of the 20 departments placed under "reinforced surveillance" to inaugurate containment at the weekend, after the agglomerations of Nice and Dunkirk last week.

- "Tie break" -

In this department, where hospitals are saturated, the government has proposed confinement for the next three weekends, in consultation with elected officials who were the first to demand strong measures.

"We are making this effort for three weekends but we want our due for vaccines," said the LR mayor of Calais Nathalie Bouchart, believing that the department had been "under-staffed".

It is generally necessary to "strengthen the policy of tests and isolation and accelerate vaccination", agrees the government source, one of the tracks being to quickly authorize pharmacists to vaccinate.

The LR mayor of Le Touquet Daniel Fasquelle denounced him Wednesday evening on BFMTV "a breach of equality" and a policy of "two weights - two measures" against the neighboring North department or Ile-de-France, stressing the anger of traders.

The mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo reiterates, she in Le Parisien her opposition to a new confinement, including the weekend, a measure that she considers "inhuman in a very dense city" like Paris, "especially as nothing proves its effectiveness ".

In the 20 departments monitored, including the entire Paris region, affected by the English variant of the more contagious virus, some have seen their incidence rate skyrocket.

This is the case of Pas-de-Calais and Seine-Saint-Denis, which exceed 400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over seven days, well above the maximum alert threshold set at 250 by the health authorities.

In Dunkirk, it has exceeded a thousand.

"Even if we observe the very likely impact of vaccination, and in particular on the most vulnerable because of their age, the situation remains worrying," said on Wednesday morning the director of Public Health France, Geneviève Chêne, for whom "overall, the death rate fell slightly in mid-February, by -5%".

France has exceeded 3 million people who received a first dose of vaccine, mostly elderly people and caregivers, and the Minister of Health Olivier Véran dangled an acceleration in March, with "a first vaccination" promised to "6 million French".

Nationally, the number of new contaminations in 24 hours was 26,788 Wednesday evening.

And the number of Covid-19 patients treated in intensive care also continues to increase, with 3,637 patients on Wednesday, the highest level since the end of November.

But this figure remains far from the peak of the 2nd wave of autumn (4,900) and above all, of the 1st wave in spring (7,000).

326 new deaths were recorded in hospitals on Wednesday, a rate that remains stable.

Since the start of the epidemic, more than 87,000 people have died from Covid in France.

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