Second COVID wave 'highly likely' to hit France this year, scientists say

The short term future of the pandemic mainly lies in the hands of the population

  
People, wearing protective face masks, walk inside the Westfield Forum des Halles shopping centre in Paris as France enforces mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across the country, July 20, 2020.

People, wearing protective face masks, walk inside the Westfield Forum des Halles shopping centre in Paris as France enforces mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across the country, July 20, 2020.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS - A second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is "highly likely" to hit France in the autumn or winter, the government's top scientific body warned on Tuesday, as authorities seek to contain an increase in new cases over the past two weeks.

After strict lockdown measures pushed down infection rates, many European countries are now watching numbers creep back up, a consequence of easing curbs to try to limit economic damage and greater social mixing in the holiday season.

"The situation is precarious and we could at any moment tip into a scenario that is less under control, like in Spain," the French scientific committee said in a statement published by the health ministry.

"It is highly likely that we will experience a second epidemic wave this autumn or winter," it said, adding that if people failed to respect social distancing rules, it could not rule out a return of the epidemic as soon as this summer.

The warning comes after the head of the German doctors' union said Germany was already contending with a second wave and risked squandering its early success by flouting social distancing rules.

French authorities have already started to tighten public hygiene rules, with cities such as Lille and Nice ordering people to wear masks in busy pedestrian streets.

France has reported 3,376 new confirmed COVID-19 cases over the last three days and the number of people being treated in ICUs for the disease has started to creep higher. 

President Emmanuel Macron, on holiday at in his summer residence of Bregançon on the Mediterranean coast, is expected to travel to the port city of Toulon later in the day to meet social workers looking after older people.

(Reporting by Henri-Pierre Andre; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Michel Rose; Editing by Alison Williams and Nick Macfie) ((benoit.vanoverstraeten@thomsonreuters.com; +33149495339;))

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