France has entered Stage 3 of the Covid-19 epidemic and Monaco is likely to follow suit. But what exactly does this level of response mean?
Movement to ‘Stage 3’ of the epidemic was announced by French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday night. At the time of writing this article Monaco has yet to announce a similar measure, but it is inevitable that the same measures of containment will be taken in the Principality.
So, what does stage 3 mean?
Well, it doesn’t signal a time to panic. In fact, the country has gradually been moving to stage 3 for a number of days now. Essentially, it is aimed at easing the burden on the health system and making sure the most serious patients are receiving the care they need.
It is a question of anticipation, so as not to end up in a situation like Italy, where hospitals are saturated, under-equipped and doctors are forced to select the patients whom they must treat as a priority.
The progression to stage 3 means doctors and health professionals will be able to treat people with Covid-19 on an outpatient basis for mild and moderate symptoms.
In stage two, all confirmed patients were hospitalised, regardless of the severity of their condition. This situation will no longer be possible if the number of patients increases.
With regards to hospitals, “The critical point is the number of ICU beds”, explains Regional Health Agency General Director Philippe de Mester. “Because this particular disease generates respiratory difficulties which can develop fairly quickly, it requires people be treated in intensive care,” said de Mester. “Many people are doing very well, but they need assistance.”
In order for a sufficient number of resuscitation beds to be available in public and private hospitals, the government is asking hospitals to reserve these beds only for those in “vital emergency situations”. To avoid saturation, planned surgeries will be rescheduled, for example.
Resources outside the hospital will also be called upon, such as retired health personnel and other people with relevant skills.
Stage 3 will see the closure of schools. In this instance, they will introduce distance learning methods and teachers will continue to monitor students remotely.
If possible, parents will be encouraged to switch to ‘teleworking’, but if this is not possible and they must stay at home to look after their children, they will be compensated in the same context as sick leave. It is unclear whether Monaco will apply the same rules, although it seems likely.
In order to the limit the spread of the virus, the government requests that various protection measures be put in place, such as allowing staff to work from home, avoid meetings and cancel unnecessary travel.
President Macron said that companies of all sizes in France will be protected, and employees in all industries will also be protected.
Sports and cultural events
France and Monaco have already banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people in a confined space. Stage 3 sees a ban on all events such as sports matches, festivals, expos, shows and other gatherings. This would prevent the Monte Carlo Rolex Tennis Masters from going ahead as planned, although the ATP announced on Thursday that is is postponing games for the next six weeks.
President Macron said public transport will be allowed to continue to operate, but he requested people travel only when necessary.
Given the fact this is a new strain, it is difficult to calculate how long stage 3 will last. The flu epidemic plan, however, does allow for between eight and 12 weeks at stage 3 before things return to normal.
In the meantime, the prevention methods remain the same: wash your hands regularly, avoid close contact with people, use disposable tissues, blow your nose and sneeze in your elbow.
People can call Monaco’s Covid-19 hotline if they have questions: 92 05 55 00 or email email@example.com.
People suffering symptoms can call 18 or 112.