Reconfined. In Martinique and Reunion, health restrictions have returned after an outbreak of Covid-19 cases, as in Guadeloupe, placed under curfew, Friday, July 30. Prime Minister Jean Castex did not hesitate, Thursday, July 29, to qualify as “dramatic” the situation in these ultra-marine departments, placed in a state of health emergency.
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However, the incidence rate displayed in Martinique (1,035 per 100,000 inhabitants) and in Reunion (345) is sometimes much lower than those of certain French departments. There are thus 630 cases in the Pyrénées-Orientales, without similar measures being adopted.
The local authorities have reinstated the wearing of masks outside and ordered the closure of bars and restaurants from 11 p.m., but no curfew or traffic restrictions in sight for the department of Occitanie. So why are these ultra-marine departments confined, unlike those in France? Franceinfo gives you some explanations.
Because ultra-marine hospitals are saturated
Thousand and thirty-five cases per 100,000 inhabitants. This is the incidence rate in Martinique as of July 26. The highest recorded in France over this period. Fort-de-France hospital center “reached a saturation level”, ensures the prefecture, after the sharp increase in intensive care admissions. The occupancy rate is currently 115.4% and a team of around fifty soldiers from the Army health service and the Army medical regiment will be deployed on site, the Ministry of the Armed Forces announced on Friday. .
“The public admitted to intensive care is young and that worries us. The consequence is that in a fortnight, we will see a strong family contamination with older people who are not vaccinated”, deplores Professor François Roques, at the CHU of Fort-de-France, interviewed by franceinfo.
The Assistance publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP) said “ready” to receive “very quickly” West Indian patients, faced with this heavy influx. Three patients must be transferred Saturday to Paris, announced Thursday evening the director of the CHU of Fort-de-France. On the side of the Guadeloupe, the white plan was triggered on Monday to cope with the increase in admissions.
Same problem in the Indian Ocean, where the deputy of Reunion Jean-Hugues Ratenon is alarmed on franceinfo about the situation of the hospitals of the island: “They are almost at the breaking point. They are almost out of intensive care spaces. We need more intensive care beds. We need intensive care personnel. We need equipment.” As of July 28, 75% of Covid-19 patients in intensive care on the island were under the age of 60, reports Réunion La 1ère in particular, and a third of operating theaters were closed to free up intensive care beds.
Because the vaccination rate is much lower overseas
Vaccination is advancing very slowly in the overseas departments and this is also what pushes the authorities to act. According to data from Public Health France, 11 of the 13 regions of France have a rate of first-time vaccines greater than 60% of their population. The other two, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Corsica, show a rate of 59%.
At 9,300 kilometers away, Reunion has a rate of only 40% currently vaccinated. When barely 21% of Guadeloupeans and Martinicans received their first dose. With a vaccination two to three times lower than that in France, the virus is actively circulating on these islands. “The Martinican population is less immune, generally older, and therefore more fragile, than that of regions where Covid-19 has circulated more and where the vaccination rate is higher”, underlines the prefecture of Martinique in a press release published Wednesday.
There are several reasons for this delay in vaccination. First of these: a delay in the delivery of doses, which postponed the launch of the vaccination campaign among the elderly. The geographic isolation of certain areas, which are difficult to access, such as the Mafate circus in Reunion, also complicates the task of medical teams. It becomes more complicated to meet the inhabitants concerned by the vaccination, even when the delivery of doses is made possible there.
The barrier of the lack of confidence of the population is also mentioned. “In general, we are in a territory of vaccine-skeptics. For everything concerning non-compulsory vaccines, we have one of the lowest vaccination rates in France”, notes with regret Olivier Coudin, Deputy Director General of the Martinique Regional Health Agency, to franceinfo.
Because in France, hospital occupancy remains lower
The situation in the overseas departments partly shows the effectiveness of vaccination in France. If several departments of the Mediterranean coast see their incidence rate explode with the summer population movements, local hospitals do not see this increase reflected in their services: the rate of intensive care occupancy by patients with Covid-19 remains below 30% in the 13 regions. Proof that the vaccine acts well against severe forms of the disease which require hospitalizations, or even visits to intensive care units.
And the correlation with vaccination seems obvious to the Prime Minister. “There is really a difference, clear, visible, it is the proof by example, between the populations which are vaccinated and those which do not be vaccinated”said Jean Castex on Thursday.
People not vaccinated against Covid-19 represent around 85% of patients hospitalized in France, including in intensive care, and 78% of deaths due to the virus, according to a study conducted from May 31 to July 11 (PDF) and published on Friday by the Drees, the statistical service of social ministries. TO Lille, “97% of hospitalized patients, regardless of age and comorbidities, are unvaccinated”, assures Emmanuel Faure, head of clinic of the infectious diseases department of the Lille University Hospital, at France 3 Hauts-de-France.