COVID-19 | The West Indies on Red Alert, “extremely serious” situation

(Fort-de-France) Incidence rates in France since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic “never known”, strict containment in Martinique and probably in Guadeloupe: the health crisis in the Antilles is “extremely serious”, where Overseas Minister Sébastien Lecornu starts on Tuesday a “crisis visit”.

Posted on 8/10/2021 2:06 PM

Jean-Marc PULVAR with Amandine ASCENSIO in Guadeloupe and Antonio RODRIGUEZ in Paris Agence France-Presse

“The situation is extremely serious,” the minister, who left Paris in the afternoon for Guadeloupe, told AFP. He will travel to Martinique on Thursday, where he will be accompanied by Minister of Health Olivier Véran.

“These are incidence rates that we have never seen in France,” he added, considering a likely tightening of containment in Guadeloupe, as announced in Martinique on Monday.

“It makes sense that we have to tighten the braking measures because there is an emergency,” he said. The decision should be made on Wednesday after local elected officials consulted and videoconferenced a health defense council chaired by Emmanuel Macron.

“Of course there will be a lot of discussion about the situation in the West Indies. There are already twice as many people in the hospital due to COVID-19 as the high point that Martinique experienced 18 months ago, “said government spokesman Gabriel.

In Martinique, which has been partially locked up since July 30th, shops (excluding grocery stores and pharmacies), seasonal rentals and hotels (excluding welcoming professionals and residents), cultural sites and leisure activities including beaches are closed.

The drive around the house is limited to a maximum of one kilometer, until then it is 10 km.

Regarding tourists encouraged to leave Martinique, Jean-Pierre Mas, President of Travel Companies (EDV), told AFP the return conditions: people who travel with their families or who have organized their trip themselves, need to get closer to service providers (airline, car rental company, etc.)

For those who went through a professional, “we would bring them back without paying any additional price,” he said.

The rapid return of tourists was “well managed,” said Foreign Minister for Tourism Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne to AFP.

Air France has increased the capacity of its aircraft by adding the 777-300s, which “have the most seats” in their fleet, according to a company spokesman. Air Caraïbes reminded that there were still places on Fort de France / Orly flights and would introduce new routes “if necessary”.

In this poorly vaccinated area (22% of the population received a first dose), where the delta variant accounts for 40% of the contamination, the incidence rate rose to 1,162 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the regional health authority.

Metropolitan reinforcements

Martinique rose from 410 cases on July 6 to 4,171 in the first week of August and 35 deaths. In four weeks, 350 people were hospitalized.

In neighboring Guadeloupe, which is already subject to a new prison sentence but is initially less strict than that of Martinique, the numbers are also skyrocketing: From August 2 to August 8, the incidence rate reached 1,769 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with 876 the week before.

14 people died in the same period, and the Delta variant accounts for 88% of the contamination. Again, vaccination coverage is much lower than in metropolitan France (where 4 in 5 adults have received at least one dose) and less than 20% of the population have received both injections.

Gérard Cotellon, the director general of the CHU of Pointe-à-Pitre, told AFP he had to “push the walls in” to take in new patients, the vast majority of whom were not vaccinated.

On Tuesday afternoon, 231 nurses and 70 firefighters, split between two planes, one for Guadeloupe and one for Martinique, took off from Paris on a 15-day relief mission.

Faced with the influx of patients, the two islands carried out the first patient evacuations to hospitals in France in early August.

To make matters worse, a tropical storm threatens Guadeloupe and Martinique, which were put on yellow vigilance Tuesday.

Elsewhere overseas, the health situation is also critical in Polynesia, where the incidence rate now exceeds 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and where a curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. has again been imposed.

In Reunion Island, which has also been partially contained since July 31, the incidence rate on August 3 was over 350.

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