Managing the lockdown in a French psychiatric care unit

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A sign hanging from a Paris building in support of France’s public hospitals, March 27th 2020. © Philippe LABROSSE / Hans Lucas via AFP A sign hanging from a Paris building in support of France’s public hospitals, March 27th 2020. © Philippe LABROSSE / Hans Lucas via AFP

Amid the heightening of the coronavirus epidemic in France, Mediapart has been asking doctors from a range of different hospital services to describe, in their own words, their day-to-day experiences and difficulties in coping with the current crisis. Here, Marion, a 28-year-old house doctor in an adult psychiatric care unit in the north-east town of Reims, details the very acute problems for her patients in observing the strict social confinement restrictions imposed under the national lockdown, and the “boomerang” effect to come from cancelled consultations.

French care homes face ethical crisis over life or death issues as virus takes its toll

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A resident reads in her room at a care home in Marchiennes, northern France, March 27th 2020; the residents are confined in their rooms to stop the virus spreading. © Julie Sebadelha /AFP A resident reads in her room at a care home in Marchiennes, northern France, March 27th 2020; the residents are confined in their rooms to stop the virus spreading. © Julie Sebadelha /AFP

The type of healthcare to be administered and the rules surrounding the physical and chemical restraint of some residents in France's care homes have been been urgently reviewed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting anger from some carers. They fear many residents who do not get the virus could suffer as a result, and that some who do could die “painful deaths” because of administrative delays, or be affected by a growing shortage of medicines. There is dismay, too, that these establishment are once again being treated as the poor relation in France's social and healthcare system. According to the government's incomplete figures some 2,189 deaths “linked to Covid” have occurred in the country's nursing homes since March 1st. Mathilde Goanec reports.

Proof of French government's lies over shortages of protective masks

President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to a Covid-19 field hospital at Mulhouse in eastern France on March 25th 2020. © AFP President Emmanuel Macron during a visit to a Covid-19 field hospital at Mulhouse in eastern France on March 25th 2020. © AFP

An investigation by Mediapart has revealed the chaotic management at the highest levels of the French state over the crucial issue of providing protective masks to help tackle the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Our probe, which has analysed the situation since January and is based on numerous witness accounts and documentary evidence, highlights the hidden shortages, the unreliable health instructions, the neglected offers of help with importing masks, the continuing shortage of stocks and the way that some companies have been favoured. It also reveals the lies that have accompanied this mismanagement. Meanwhile hundreds of nurses have become infected with the virus. Yann Philippin, Antton Rouget and Marine Turchi report.

Isolated and vulnerable: why France's overseas territories feel shunned in virus crisis

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A police officer patrolling Gosier beach on Guadalupe, March 20th 2020 © Cedrick Isham CALVADOS / AFP A police officer patrolling Gosier beach on Guadalupe, March 20th 2020 © Cedrick Isham CALVADOS / AFP

The threat of the Covid-19 coronavirus is particularly great for France's overseas regions and territories because of their remoteness and their lack of infrastructure. But above all, as Julien Sartre writes, the pandemic risks being a disaster for the morale and mental well-being of the people living on these far-flung lands.

The Online Cold War: foreign hackers and trolls undeterred by virus crisis

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A meme that has gone viral: Russian leader Vladimir Putin relaxing; below is a map of Europe showing how it has been invaded by the virus. © DR A meme that has gone viral: Russian leader Vladimir Putin relaxing; below is a map of Europe showing how it has been invaded by the virus. © DR

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has not brought a stop to the activities of hackers and trolls bankrolled by various foreign governments, including Russia and China. In some cases hacking attacks have targeted institutions who are in the front line in the battle against the virus. Trolls meanwhile have been extolling the virtues of how authoritarian regimes have handled the health emergency. François Bougon and Matthieu Suc report.

French government's failings magnified by Covid-19 epidemic

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In the front line: President Emmanuel Macron has donned the mantle of a wartime leader. © AFP In the front line: President Emmanuel Macron has donned the mantle of a wartime leader. © AFP

The French government's public utterances during the coronavirus crisis have cruelly exposed its shortcomings, its method of thinking and the extent to which it is out of touch with events on the ground. There have been contradictory instructions, a slowness to express gratitude to those tackling the crisis on the front line, and great emphasis on the country being “at war”. Inside the government, writes Mediapart political journalist Ellen Salvi, some are worried about the image the executive is giving of itself during the crisis.

Paris hospitals urged to treat Covid crisis as 'natural disaster'

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The queue at the Hôtel-Dieu AP-HP hospital in Paris on March 23rd 2020. © Edouard Richard / Hans Lucas via AFP The queue at the Hôtel-Dieu AP-HP hospital in Paris on March 23rd 2020. © Edouard Richard / Hans Lucas via AFP

Hospital intensive care units in the Paris region are already swamped by the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. Mediapart has seen emails in which the regional health authority has asked hospital chiefs to free up a thousand beds in 48 hours as a matter of urgency and to transform their hospitals into disaster zone facilities. There has even been talk of nurses having to be pressed into service. Meanwhile hospital staff, who are poorly protected and in some cases themselves suffering from the virus, say they will “settle their scores” with the health authorities later. Caroline Coq-Chodorge reports.

Chloroquine: the controversial drug at the heart of the race for a coronavirus treatment

By ROUGUYATA SALL
The front of the infectious diseases unit headed by Professor Didier Raoult at the IHU Marseille teaching hospital, March 22nd 2020. © Laurent Le Crabe / Hans Lucas / Hans Lucas via AFP The front of the infectious diseases unit headed by Professor Didier Raoult at the IHU Marseille teaching hospital, March 22nd 2020. © Laurent Le Crabe / Hans Lucas / Hans Lucas via AFP

In China and the United States, as well as France, the drug chloroquine is one of the main focal points in the race to provide an effective treatment for the Covid-19 coronavirus. So far there is still insufficient data to show whether this anti-malaria drug will prove useful in treating people infected with the virus. And a French study praising its benefits has become mired in controversy. Rouguyata Sall reports.

The French military's belated response in defending its soldiers from the virus

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In all “several dozen” military personnel in France have contracted the Covid-19 coronavirus since the start of the outbreak. The Ministry of Defence in Paris insists that measures to stem the spread of the virus within the armed forces have been applied “very rigorously”. But the accounts of some soldiers and defence staff on the ground tell a different story and paint a picture of a command structure unsure how to react to the growing health threat to their own personnel. Justine Brabant reports.

Covid-19: a diary of lockdown in a small French village

By Jean-Louis Le Touzet
A cat prowls freely amid the lockdown in Audresselles. © JLLT / MP A cat prowls freely amid the lockdown in Audresselles. © JLLT / MP

The introduction by the French government last week of a lockdown on people’s movements  amid the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic saw some city dwellers head for more pleasant surrounds in which to be confined. Sports journalist Jean-Louis Le Touzet was one of them, arriving just before the restrictions entered into force in a small village on the Channel coast, where he immediately began keeping this diary. In Audresselles, the health crisis is an economic catastrophe as businesses go to the wall in what Le Touzet’s British and Brexit-supporting neighbour, now confined in Europe, warns will be “worse than the crash in 2008”.

Why social solidarity is a defence against the virus epidemic

By Jedediah Britton-Purdy (Jacobin)

The Covid-19 coronavirus is now spreading in the US, where if you have wealth or a salary, and enough space at home, you might be able to pull off the absurd trick of isolating yourself for a few months, writes Columbia Law School professor and essayist Jedediah Britton-Purdy, but for half the population with no savings, living paycheck to paycheck, which has to hustle every day to find work, this is simply impossible.

French hospitals braced for Covid-19 'tsunami' and choices of who dies and who lives

A patient being evacuated from the Émile-Muller hospital in Mulhouse, Alsace, March 17th 2020. © SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP A patient being evacuated from the Émile-Muller hospital in Mulhouse, Alsace, March 17th 2020. © SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Recorded deaths in France from the Covid-19 coronavirus by Saturday evening had risen to 562, with 6,172 people receiving hospital treatment for the infection, a quarter of who are in intensive care, according to official figures. But no-one doubts this is still a statistical calm before the epidemic engulfs France’s healthcare system, a wave forecast to reach a peak in early April. Mediapart has been talking to doctors and nurses around France about how they are preparing for a crisis many predict will be so great that choices will have to be made about which patients are admitted for treatment – as is already happening in the currently worst-hit region of Alsace.

The major virus threat for France's overcrowded jails

The prison in Fresnes, south of Paris. © AFP The prison in Fresnes, south of Paris. © AFP

Amid the galloping Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic in France, there is a particularly grave threat to the country’s prison population, many of who are detained in overcrowded and insalubrious conditions. The dangers are such that measures are underway to reduce inmate numbers, with magistrates advised to deliver bail conditions instead of jail terms, and to approve unusually early release for prisoners nearing the end of their sentences. But many magistrates find themselves caught in a dilemma over both practical and ethical issues.

Homecare workers fear virus crisis ahead in rural France

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Homecare worker Claire Marcins visiting one of her charges. © Jordan Pouille / MP Homecare worker Claire Marcins visiting one of her charges. © Jordan Pouille / MP

As the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic accelerates across France, the country was officially placed in lockdown at midday on Tuesday, with the population required by law to remain at home except for essential purposes, such as buying food, attending medical appointments, or travelling to work for those with no alternative. Attention has been focused on the bizarre atmosphere taking over Paris and major cities as streets empty of pedestrians and vehicles. But the crisis ahead is nowhere more acute than for the dependent elderly and handicapped in rural areas who already rely on homecare workers to survive in normal times, and now more than ever. Jordan Pouille reports from the Sologne region in north-central France.

French municipal elections: first-round results, reactions amid spiralling coronavirus crisis

France held nationwide local elections on Sunday in the extraordinary conditions of ramped up measures to slow the accelerating coronavirus outbreak in the country. These included the shutdown of a vast number of public sites at midnight on Saturday, including shops, cafés, restaurants and entertainment venues, while the virus crisis has now made the holding of the final second round next weekend in doubt. Follow here the principal results and developments from these most unusual elections.