1. Preventing transmission
The section on PREVENTING TRANSMISSION includes information on key public health measures that aim to prevent the further spread of the disease. It details how countries are advising the general public and people who (might) have the disease to prevent further spread, as well as measures in place to test and identify cases, trace contacts, and monitor the scale of the outbreak.
1.1 Health communication
Since the first announcement by the President on April 13 fixing the end of the lock-down period as May 11, the government has declared that measures and conditions of the lock-down will be announced by the end of the month. On April 28, the Prime Minister presented the government's plan at the National Assembly; this was publicly broadcasted on major media. Daily communications by the Minister of Health will include, from April 30, a presentation of the epidemic risk by département. Implementation of the main measures proposed by the government to get back to normal will depend on the local epidemiologic situation (see section 1.4.).
The first cases of coronavirus were detected in France on January 24 2020. The first official advice on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette have been issued rather late, only towards mid-February. Concurrent with the exponential increase in cases, the intensity of communication on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette has intensified with regular radio and television spots by the end of February. Since mid-March, there are regular television spots calling for social distancing, advice on hand hygiene and the importance of self-isolation. Following a dramatic decrease in healthcare consumption during the first month of the lock-down, new TV spots insist on the necessity to seek needed care, in particular for those living with a chronic disorder. Spots were also broadcasted online (for instance on Youtube), to give information on how to go shopping for food, to keep children busy at home or to remain physically active.
Nevertheless, the government’s advice on the use of masks for the general population has been unclear and changed over time, which created public confusion. The government eventually declared that it was not useful for everyone to use a mask, and that they must instead be reserved for healthcare and other professionals at high risk of contamination as well as for sick people, without really admitting that masks were scarce. But following the recent recommendations of the Academy of Medicine on April 3, suggesting that a widespread use of masks in the general population is necessary, the government’s speech has started to shift. Last week the government admitted that their recommendations have been influenced by the lack of masks.
People were advised against all but essential international travel and to limit their social activities around the end of February, but restrictions concerned mainly China and countries where the virus was already very prevalent.
The Ministry of Health provides daily information to the general public on the epidemiological situation and the measures taken to tackle the healthcare challenges (https://solidarites-sante.gouv.fr/soins-et-maladies/maladies/maladies-infectieuses/coronavirus/article/points-de-situation-coronavirus-covid-19). Since early April, this communication not only includes deaths in hospitals, but also those occurring in nursing homes. The government also has a dedicated webpage focusing on the explanation of key measures to avoid the spread of the disease (https://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus). The National Public Health Institute (Santé Publique France) provides weekly epidemiological bulletins providing more details on the different regional situations (https://geodes.santepubliquefrance.fr/#c=news) and gives information to public and health professionals on preventive measures (https://www.santepubliquefrance.fr/maladies-et-traumatismes/maladies-et-infections-respiratoires/infection-a-coronavirus/articles/infection-au-nouveau-coronavirus-sars-cov-2-covid-19-france-et-monde).