Cancer Support France – Languedoc’s Covid-19 Bulletin 9

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By Cancer Support France – Languedoc

Welcome to our ninth bulletin during the Coronavirus epidemic. In this bulletin we share information about:

  • a precis of the speech by Édouard Philippe on 19th April;
  • detailed guidance about how to approach home hygiene in the time of Covid-19;
  • a Mindful Self-Compassion programme being run by Breast Cancer Haven;
  • Cancer Support France-Languedoc and other organisations’ plans and guidance during this crisis.

Non-Covid-19 Healthcare
Please note that good quality care for non-Covid-19 health issues continues, in particular for emergencies. All measures will be taken to keep patients safe. If you need emergency healthcare for a suspected heart attack, stroke or any other reason, please use 15 (Medical/SAMU) or 112 (recommended from a mobile).

Cancer Support France-Languedoc (CSF-L), Covid-19 response
CSF-L continues to support Anglophones touched by cancer in the Hérault and Aveyron, as well as extending support to people touched by Covid-19 for the duration of the crisis.

In line with confinement requirements, this is done at distance. Our Helpline can be reached on 04 67 44 87 06. (This is a voicemail service and we aim to return calls within 24 hours of a message being left).

Édouard Philippe’s Press Conference of 19th April
Édouard Philippe confirmed that the Press Conference was to explain what was and was not known about Covid-19 and about what France would to do respond to it, including the principles of planning, what was hoped could be achieved, and what was likely not to be achieved.

He was clear that the crisis was far from over, and it will continue to affect all aspects of life (including health, social, economic) for the foreseeable future.

In giving his information, he was supported by key experts and notably by the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran.

Detailed information about the impact of and responses to Covid-19 in France to date was provided, including:

  • statistics relating to those hospitalised by and dying because of Covid-19
  • medical equipment and medication ordered and amassed
  • ICU capacity
  • the impact on those living in Care Homes
  • full and partial job losses (and relevant welfare support)
  • support to business
  • the setting up of the 0 800 103 000 Coronavirus information line
  • the setting up of a support line for medical staff

The overall message was that the confinement could only be lifted gradually.

The presentation of Prof Florence Auder confirmed that there is a lot that remains unknown about the virus, including: whether catching it provides immunity; why some people develop serious symptoms; reasons for the disparity in number of cases between men and women; and why children are not usually affected.

Treatment: There are 860 clinical trials of treatments worldwide, of which 30 are in France. There is no proven success yet, and it is unlikely there will be a miracle one, as the trials are using drugs developed for other conditions.

Research is ongoing for targeted drugs/treatments, but in parallel, other treatments are being used to decrease inflammation. There will be no proven treatment at the point of coming out of confinement.

Vaccine: There are 150 vaccines being developed worldwide, 20 of which are at an advanced stage with 5 at human trial stage. In France, the Institut Pasteur has one in an advanced stage, to start human trials in the summer.

No vaccine will be ready before mid-2021

Actions already decided include:

  • from 20th April there will be a right to visit for those with family in Care Homes (the details of which will be the responsibility of the Care Home management)
  • the right to receive Home Care continues, particularly for vulnerable people living in their own homes
  • healthcare will continue to be made available, by phone where appropriate
  • investment in tests and treatments will continue to be a priority

There are two main conditions the government is looking to fulfil before any further change to confinement arrangements can be made on 11th May:

1.  Get control of the circulation of the virus, limiting it as much as possible

2.  Re-establish the capacity of the hospitals to take in new cases, reducing pressure on hospital service.

1. In order to be assured that the circulation of the virus is under control, the government would need to be assured that, for every person with Covid-19, they would pass the virus on to no more than one other person. Ideally, for every 10 people with Covid-19, no more than 6 further people would be infected (or fewer if possible).

As we will be living with the virus for some time, then prevention will remain the cornerstone of appropriate action.

Prevention measures are:

  • Continue with established practice of sneezing/coughing into a tissue or crook of the arm; handwashing etc. The use of masks for the general public is now being added as an additional measure and guidance will follow.
  • Testing whether someone has Covid-19, prioritising those showing symptoms, those who work with those who are ill, and widening out to those at risk of developing severe symptoms.
  • Isolation of those who have symptoms and/or have tested positive for the virus

All people will be asked to behave responsibly following the lifting of current, strict confinement. No matter what age, anyone who believes themselves to be at risk of severe symptoms should continue to maintain a level of confinement to minimise risk.

2. The capacity of the hospitals has been increased – particularly in terms of ICU beds, ventilators and surgical masks. There remain concerns about capacity in terms of protective gowns for medical staff, and levels of ICU-specific medication.

It is hoped that by 11th May, capacity will be increased further.

More detailed plans will be formulated involving Mairies and Préfectures. These plans will include:

  • information about masks (when they should/must be used, how they will be made available etc),
  • when different trades will be able to re-start their businesses
  • re-opening of schools
  • information about travel (within France and abroad)

Approved masks for the general public are being produced in France at 17 million per week until 11th May (+ orders of tens of millions placed abroad). These will be washable, some up to 20 or 30 times. They will not replace any preventive gestures, and social distancing which will remain in place. Masks are likely be mandatory on public transport, where social distancing is more difficult. Distribution of masks is very complex but will be coordinated with Préfecture and Mairies as well as employers and possibly supermarkets.

Tests: Diagnostic tests will be done at scale for anyone with symptoms or who has been exposed. At present 150,000 per week, after 11th May, 500,000 per week planned, using mobile teams on car parks etc. Préfets will decide the best locations.
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Anyone testing positive will be given the choice of home isolation with all family members having to isolate too, or to isolate in a hotel under medical supervision.

Tracing: Digital tracing aids will be debated by the national assembly on 28th April and in senate on the 29th before possible approval to use. Substantial manpower will be needed to contact trace those in contact with diagnosed new cases.

Prior to 11th May, there will be further guidance on initial changes to confinement rules.

On 23rd May, a decision will be made as to whether local elections can take place in late June.

Local Health Authority Guidance (Agence Régionale de Santé [ARS], Occitanie)
Guidance is constantly being updated and made available (in French) on the following site:
https://www.occitanie.ars.sante.fr/coronavirus-covid-19-informations-et-recommandations-sanitaires

As promised in our last Bulletin, we have an English translation of their detailed guidance, provided on 9th April, going through the best hygiene regimes at home to guard against Covid-19 (Hygiène à la maison : recommandations durant la période d’épidémie COVID 19) using the following link:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1d5yAUyb5X-bKv-cslUOufPl6NaeK4f_t/view

The guidance includes clarification on:

  • when and how often everyone should wash their hands
  • how to deal effectively with food and food packaging following shopping
  • food preparation
  • airing the home
  • disinfection of regularly handled surfaces such as door handles, and phones/computers etc
  • washing of household fabrics and clothes
  • regular cleaning of bathroom areas
  • regular disposal of rubbish and recycling
  • pets being unable to transmit Covid-19

Other Health Authority (ARS) statements/information
Recent information released by the ARS reinforces the 13th April statement from President Macron:

  • During the confinement (to 11th May, and beyond, depending on review), all strict protection measures remain in place – in particular to consult doctors or visit A&E if necessary.
  • Hospitals and care homes will facilitate the visit of close family members to end of life patients with all protection measures being used.
  • Testing will increase gradually with priority given to the elderly, care workers, and those at risk, with the aim to test everyone who displays symptoms when confinement ends.
  • Masks will be made available to everyone.

There has been an appeal for vigilance around the use of Rapid Tests for Covid-19 (Tests Rapides d’Orientation Diagnostique TROD). They work by using a drop of blood taken from the fingertip. The Ministry of Health and Scientific Councils have not yet verified their reliability and the conditions for use have not been defined. The ARS therefore urges doctors, laboratories and pharmacists to be vigilant and not to use them until they have been approved by the National Centre of Reference.

Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Programme Online
There is a Mindful Self-Compassion programme taking place live online.  It is a nine-week course starting on Monday 20th April at 2pm and is open to anyone – you do not need to be a Breast Cancer Haven visitor.

This 2.5 hours per week training programme is designed to cultivate the skill of  mindfulness and self-compassion, enabling you to respond to difficult moments in your life with awareness, kindness and wisdom, leading to less anxiety, depression and stress, and better maintenance of healthy habits such as diet and exercise.

The Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Programme includes practices, short talks, experiential exercises, group discussion, and home practices.

This is a practical workshop, involving active participation to learn practices that will evoke self-compassion in daily life.

You can find out more about the programme here, including dates and fees information. No one is turned away on financial grounds.

We hope you stay safe and well.

Kind regards,

CSF-Languedoc