French people should not underestimate the threat of the coronavirus since the situation in the country is already dire and likely to get worse fast, a senior health official has warned, adding that people need to stay home.
There are almost 5,500 confirmed coronavirus cases in France, with over 400 people in serious condition. The situation with the epidemic is “extremely worrying” with the epidemic moving very fast, senior health official Jerome Salomon said.
“The number of cases doubles every three days. I would like our fellow citizens to realize that there are hundreds of people who are sick, in intensive care,” he told France Inter.
Salomon heads the DGS, a department in the Ministry for Solidarity and Health tasked with protecting public health, so he is on the frontline of combating the epidemic. He is worried that the general public is taking lightly the instructions to minimize social contact to halt the spread of the virus.
“Many people don’t comprehend that it is necessary to stay at home,” he said. Due to this low compliance “we are not succeeding in curbing the outbreak.”
Likewise, too many younger people are underestimating the risks by not taking necessary precautions, the official said.
“Half of the people in intensive care are under 65. Slightly more than 10 percent of deaths are under 65,” Salomon warned. There have been 127 coronavirus deaths in France so far.
He also warned that it would be “catastrophic” if the virus were allowed to run rampant and overwhelm the hospitals, at which point doctors would be forced to prioritize some patients over others.
The French government has been reluctant to take strict measures like border controls or lockdowns to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Media reports of a plan to order partial self-isolation were denied on Monday by Sibeth Ndiaye, a spokesperson for the Elysee Palace, who said it was “fake news.”