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Coronavirus epidemic 'under control' in France, says Scientific Council

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A waiter wearing a face mask serves clients while people eat and have drinks on the terrace of the cafe-restaurant "Le Bar du Marche" in Paris on June 2, 2020
A waiter wearing a face mask serves clients while people eat and have drinks on the terrace of the cafe-restaurant "Le Bar du Marche" in Paris on June 2, 2020   -   Copyright  BERTRAND GUAY/AFP or licensors
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The coronavirus epidemic is now "under control" in France, the president of the country's Scientific council said on Friday.

"We can reasonably declare that the epidemic is under control," Scientific council president Jean-François Delfraissy told French radio France Inter.

"The virus is still circulating, but slowly. And most importantly, we have the tools to detect new cases."

The French scientific council published a report on Tuesday detailing four scenarios of the future of the epidemic in the country.

The first scenario describes a "epidemic under control" as the "most favourable". "As long as the virus remains, this scenario still necessitates measures to fight against the epidemic," the report noted.

Other scenarios are ranked in terms of increasing tension: the second is "the appearance of critical clusters", the third a "progressive, quiet restart of the epidemic, which would be more difficult to control" and the fourth - the most severe - a "critical degradation" leading to a "loss of control on the epidemic".

This last one, the Council notes, would force the authorities to choose between another strict lockdown and a high death toll.

"The French have admirably accepted the lockdown, but it is not a normal thing," Delfraissy said on Friday.

"The goal of this report is to build together the response in the weeks and months to come. We think the first scenario is the most probable."

He warned however that the French should not relax, but "not too much": "Life must go on, but we must keep distancing measures. I think we'll have to keep them in place for some time."

Of the fourth scenario, the most serious one, Delfraissy said: "We don't want to see this one come true, so let's do everything to avoid getting there." It would be "extremely difficult", he added, to have to implement "another generalised lockdown".

Because the Paris area has been particularly hard-hit by the virus, with a higher death toll there than in most parts of the country, Delfraissy said that during the "intermediary phase", "stricter measures could be implemented in the Paris region".

"For now, there is no treatment that has been proved to work, there is no vaccine," Delfraissy added. In such a situation in which "medicine is limited", public health measures and "inividual responsibility" are crucial, he added.

Delfraissy said that France "has lacked face masks" but that their use is now "widespread and generalised".

He said that France's situation in the first weeks of the epidemic could have looked more like Germany's - with a lower death toll - "if we hadn't had this major cluster in the Mulhouse region, which disseminated the virus in the whole country in February".