Why was a region of the French Alps suddenly hit by a Covid-19 ‘tsunami’?


When the coronavirus epidemic swept France this spring, the département (county) of Savoie, in the French Alps, was relatively unaffected. But last month, as the second wave of Covid-19 emerged, it became the country’s worst-hit by virus infections. Why? François Bonnet reports.

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Éric-Alban Giroux is the director of the small hospital in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, a town of around just 8,000 inhabitants lying amid the foothills of the Alps in the Savoie département (an administrative area equivalent to a county) in south-east France. “In face of a nasty filth like that, you must above all be modest,” he commented. For a period of two weeks, from the end of October and into the beginning of November, the hospital was suddenly swamped with patients suffering from Covid-19. Soon saturated, staff began evacuating some of the cases to the hospital services in the town of Chambéry, 40 kilometres away, where the situation was also dire.