clearn.png
Saturday September 25th, 2021 8:35PM

Hospital workers despair as France's virus strategy flails

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

AMIENS, France (AP) — As France battles a new virus surge that many believe was avoidable, intensive care aide Stephanie Sannier manages her stress and sorrow by climbing into her car after a 12-hour shift, blasting music and singing as loud as she can.

“It allows me to breathe,” she says, “and to cry.”

People with COVID-19 occupy all the beds in her ICU ward in President Emmanuel Macron’s hometown hospital in the medieval northern city of Amiens. Three have died in the past three days. The vast medical complex is turning away critically ill patients from smaller towns nearby for lack of space.

With France now Europe’s latest virus danger zone, Macron on Wednesday ordered temporary school closures nationwide and new travel restrictions. But he resisted calls for a strict lockdown, instead sticking to his “third way” strategy that seeks a route between freedom and confinement to keep both infections and a restless populace under control until mass vaccinations take over.

The French government refuses to acknowledge failure, and blames delayed vaccine deliveries and a disobedient public for soaring infections and saturated hospitals. Macron’s critics, in turn, blame arrogance at the highest levels. They say France’s leaders ignored warning signs and favored political and economic calculations over public health — and lives.

“We feel this wave coming very strongly,” said Romain Beal, a blood oxygen specialist at the Amiens-Picardie Hospital. “We had families where we had the mother and her son die at the same time in two different ICU rooms here. It’s unbearable.”

The hospital’s doctors watched as the variant ravaging Britain over the winter jumped the Channel and forged south across France. Just as in Britain, the variant is now driving ever-younger, ever-healthier patients into French emergency rooms and critical care wards. Amiens medics did their best to prepare, bringing in reinforcements and setting up a temporary ICU in a pediatric wing.

After Britain’s death toll shot higher in January, after new variants slammed European countries from the Czech Republic to Portugal, France continued vaunting its “third way.”

French scientists’ projections — including from the government’s own virus advisory body — predicted trouble ahead. Charts from national research institute Inserm in January and again in February forecast climbing virus hospitalization rates in March or April. Worried doctors urged preventative measures beyond those that were already in place — a 6 p.m. nationwide curfew and the closure of all restaurants and many businesses.

Week after week, the government refused to impose a new lockdown, citing France’s stable infection and hospitalization rates, and hoping that they would stay that way. Ministers stressed the importance of keeping the economy afloat and protecting the mental health of a populace worn down by a year of uncertainty. A relieved public granted Macron a boost in the polls.

But the virus wasn’t finished. The nationwide infection rate has now doubled over the past three weeks, and Paris hospitals are bracing for what could be their worst battle yet, with ICU overcrowding forecast to surpass what happened when the pandemic first crashed over Europe.

Acknowledging the challenges, Macron on Wednesday announced a three-week nationwide school closure, a month-long domestic travel ban and the creation of thousands of temporary ICU beds. Parliament approved the measures Thursday.

While other European countries imposed their third lockdowns in recent months, Macron said that by refusing to do so in France, “we gained precious days of liberty and weeks of schooling for our children, and we allowed hundreds of thousands of workers to keep their heads above water.”

At the same time, France has lost another 30,000 lives to the virus this year. It has also reported more virus infections overall than any country in Europe, and it has one of the world’s highest death tolls — 95,640 lives lost.

Macron's refusal to order a lockdown frustrates people like Sarah Amhah, visiting her 67-year-old mother in the Amiens ICU.

“They’ve managed this badly all along,” she said, recalling government missteps a year ago around masks and tests and decrying logistical challenges around getting a vaccine for elderly relatives. While she's still proud of France's world-renowned health care system, she's not proud of her government. “How can we trust them?”

Pollsters note growing public frustration in recent days with the government’s hesitancy to crack down, and the potential impact of Macron’s current decisions on next year’s presidential campaign landscape.

Government officials argue that softer restrictions are more likely to be respected. Instead of lockdowns, Macron told his ministers he's focusing on the “speed race” to get the French population vaccinated.

Yet officials from the World Health Organization on Thursday bemoaned the slow pace of vaccinations in European countries like France, saying they have been “unacceptably slow” and risk prolonging the pandemic.

Macron last week defended his decision not to confine the country on Jan. 29, a moment epidemiologists say could have been a turning point in France’s battle to prevent surge No. 3. “There won’t be a mea culpa from me. I don’t have remorse and won’t acknowledge failure," he said.

Instead of emulating European neighbors whose strategies appear to be bringing infections down, French government officials dodge questions about the growing death toll by comparing their country to places where the situation is even worse.

At the Amiens ICU, things are already bad enough.

“We have the impression that the population is doing the opposite of what they should be doing,” said Sannier, the nurse's aide, before heading off on her rounds. “And we have the feeling we are working for nothing.”

Intern Oussama Nanai acknowledged that the drumbeat of grim virus numbers has left many people feeling numb, and he urged everyone to visit an ICU to put a human face to the figures.

“There are ups and downs every day ... Yesterday afternoon I couldn’t do it anymore. The patient in (room) 52 died, and the patient in (room) 54,” he said.

But sometimes their work pays off. “Two people who were in the most serious condition for 60 days left on their own two feet, and they sent us photos," he said. "That boosts our morale and makes us realize that what we are doing is useful.”

___

Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Maria Cheng in London contributed.

___

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage:

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Health, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Child among 4 dead in shooting at California office building
The latest U.S. mass shooting has happened at a Southern California office building where four people were killed, including a child, and a woman was critically wounded
12:30PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Hospital workers despair as France's virus strategy flails
France is now Europe's latest coronavirus danger zone, but President Emmanuel Macron is resisting calls for dramatic action
12:26PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Supreme Court sides with Facebook in text message dispute
The Supreme Court has sided with Facebook in a lawsuit over unwanted text notifications it sent, rejecting a claim the messages violated the federal ban on robocalls
12:16PM ( 25 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Biden plan would spend $16B to clean up old mines, oil wells
President Joe Biden’s plan to transform America’s infrastructure includes $16 billion to plug old oil and gas wells and clean up abandoned mines
11:55AM ( 46 minutes ago )
US allows 2 more over-the-counter COVID-19 home tests
U.S. health officials have authorized two more over-the-counter COVID-19 tests that can be used at home to get quick results
11:51AM ( 50 minutes ago )
Black adviser quits UK government in wake of racism report
The most senior Black adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned
11:45AM ( 57 minutes ago )
AP National News
Holy Thursday service held at fire-ravaged Notre Dame
A Holy Thursday service has been held at Paris' Notre Dame cathedral, even though it is still under construction after it was ravaged by flames just days before Easter in 2019
10:07AM ( 2 hours ago )
US jobless claims rise to 719K as virus still forces layoffs
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose by 61,000 last week to 719,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more businesses reopen, vaccines are increasingly administered and federal aid spreads through the economy
9:42AM ( 3 hours ago )
In AP survey, ADs raise worries about women's college sports
A new AP survey of athletic directors and conversations with ADs and conference commissioners during March Madness show concern about what would happen to women's college sports under proposals that would put more money in the pockets of some athletes
9:08AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
World trade body chief says vaccine inequity 'unacceptable'
The head of the World Trade Organization has called for for expanded vaccine manufacturing capability in developing countries
11:52AM ( 50 minutes ago )
Biden says Rangers making mistake by allowing full capacity
President Joe Biden tells ESPN it was a mistake for the Texas Rangers to allow full capacity at their ballpark for their first game
11:12AM ( 1 hour ago )
Frontier Airlines hopes IPO rides wave of travel recovery
Fans of Frontier Airlines can now buy a piece of the budget carrier
10:40AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Pfizer: Vaccine effective up to 6 months later
Pfizer says its vaccine continues to be effective against COVID-19 up to six months later
9:17AM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Japan puts 2 areas under virus semi-emergency
Japan has designated Osaka and two other areas for coronavirus control steps as infections in those areas rise ahead of the Tokyo Olympics
8:39AM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: German health chief says he'd take AstraZeneca
Germany’s health minister says he personally would be prepared “without hesitation” to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, but it isn’t his turn yet
5:05AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
The Latest: Quebec locking down 3 cities over virus surge
The Quebec government is putting three cities in the Canadian province into lockdown beginning Thursday following a sharp rise in coronavirus infections
6:13PM ( 18 hours ago )
The Latest: Amazon announces employees to return to office
Amazon plans to have its employees return to the office by fall as the tech giant transitions away from the remote work it implemented for many workers due to the coronavirus pandemic
5:03PM ( 19 hours ago )
France to close schools, ban domestic travel as virus surges
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a three-week nationwide school closure and a month-long domestic travel ban as the rapid spread of the virus ramped up pressure on hospitals
3:57PM ( 20 hours ago )
AP Business - Health Care
Child among 4 dead in shooting at California office building
The latest U.S. mass shooting has happened at a Southern California office building where four people were killed, including a child, and a woman was critically wounded
12:30PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Mets-Nats opener delayed after positive COVID test, tracing
The opening day baseball game between the Washington Nationals and New York Mets has been postponed because of coronavirus concerns
12:15PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Anticipation is building for a boom in US hiring this year
With hopes rising for a powerful rebound in hiring this year, Friday’s jobs report for March will provide crucial insight into whether those rosy expectations may prove true
12:13PM ( 28 minutes ago )
George Floyd's girlfriend recalls the first time they met
George Floyd’s girlfriend testified through tears Thursday about how they prayed together the first time they met in 2017 at a Salvation Army shelter where her son’s father was staying and Floyd was a security guard
12:09PM ( 33 minutes ago )
The Latest: AP source: Virus postpones Mets-Nats opener
The New York Mets season opener at Washington has been postponed because of coronavirus concerns
12:08PM ( 34 minutes ago )