France is now tightly in the grip of a second wave of coronavirus infections.
It is both a warning to the rest of Europe—and a damning verdict on governments that lifted lockdown restrictions early in order to “restart the economy”.
The spread of infections in many French cities has now started to hit older and more vulnerable groups, resulting in thousands of people being admitted to hospital.
Several hundred more are receiving urgent intervention in intensive care wards.
Infections among people aged 75 and older has more than doubled in the last three weeks.
And there are reports of nursing home clusters and the number of deaths edging upwards.
People in this age group are significantly more likely to die from Covid-19 than those under 50.
There were nearly 13,500 new Covid-19 cases recorded on Saturday of last week, a record high since the pandemic began.
The number of people who died from the virus rose by 26 during the same period.
Health officials in the port city of Marseille say their intensive care system is “close to saturation” as a result of the sudden rise in infections. Reports say there are some 312 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people.
That’s a rate at least four times higher than figures recorded in the worst affected parts of Britain.
Now doctors and health officials are implementing the “Plan Blanc” emergency status in several regions, including the vital Ile-de-France areas that surround the capital, Paris.
The emergency action allows for the rapid reorganisation of hospitals so they can accommodate many more patients, including those who will need intensive care.
Non-emergency cases are cancelled and as many patients as possible are transferred out of hospitals expected to become coronavirus centres.
Dr Benjamin Davido, an infectious diseases specialist in a major Paris hospital, said, “We cannot wait, arms folded, for the hospital to become overwhelmed without doing anything.
“The hospital is already tired and exhausted due to Covid-19.”
The strain is also hitting Covid-19 testing workers.
Hundreds of laboratory staff joined a strike by the CGT union last week over working conditions and poor pay.
“Our working conditions, it’s like Stalingrad,” said Pascal Boudeau, a technician at a laboratory on the outskirts of Paris, referring to the brutal Second World battle.
He said the testing system is overwhelmed, with people queuing around the block and laboratories completely overrun.
But the renewed Covid-19 crisis hitting France appears not to be troubling president Emmanuel Macron.
Hanging out at the Tour de France cycling race last week, he conceded that the new round of infections would last for “some months”.
France was among the countries most eager to end the coronavirus lockdown.
Ministers ordered the reopening of schools, with education secretary Jean-Michel Blanquer insisting it was a “social emergency”.
His battle cry was eagerly taken up by Britain’s Tories, right wing tabloids and Labour’s Keir Starmer.
But now as infections spread many schools are in France are closing, and thousands of pupils are being sent home to quarantine.
So far, over 2,100 class groups have been sent home after pupils or staff tested positive, and 524 of those covid-hit classes were detected during last week alone.
Blanquer was quick to dismiss the worries of school workers, pupils and parents, saying that the closures represent a “fraction” of the country’s schools.
But his officials have started to warn that new restrictions might now be required.