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Covid-19, how France can resist disorganization

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For almost all the heads of public services and companies contacted by The cross, the new isolation rules unveiled on Sunday January 2 by the Minister of Health Olivier Véran in Sunday Newspaper will be a relief. Faced with the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, a shortening of the period of absence of employees or contaminated agents or contact cases was one of their main hopes to avoid too great a disorganization.

→ THE FACTS. Covid-19: simplified isolation rules for vaccinated people

At U2P, we point out the difficulties for small companies. ” When three people make up a company, only one is absent and a third of the structure is missing, insists a spokesperson for this employers’ organization which claims to represent three million local businesses. Sometimes more from a production point of view if the person occupies a crucial position. “

The functioning of certain sectors will certainly be disrupted. “There will also be many of our activities disorganized due to this new variant which is so contagious”, recognized Emmanuel Macron during his greetings to the French, adding however that “In this context, we will ensure the continuity of public services and the life of the nation. “

The sanitary dam

One of the main concerns is to see the health barrier of hospitals cede to the epidemic flow, even if several studies suggest a lower severity of the Omicron variant. “If you have a variant which is three times less dangerous, but you have six or seven times more cases, the health impact is felt anyway”, underlined Olivier Véran.

“We were already working just in time, and Omicron will quickly put us back in the hard”, worries Jean-Michel Constantin, anesthesiologist at La Pitié Salpêtrière (Paris) and secretary general of the French Society of Anesthesia and Resuscitation. As in the first wave, the latter is counting on the retention of caregivers positive for Covid-19 but asymptomatic. “We are not there yet, but we will no longer have a choice in the coming weeks, he warns. With an FFP2 mask, and a breakdown in Covid services if possible, there is no real risk. “

→ EXPLANATION. Covid-19: how the Omicron variant weakens the vaccine strategy

In a November note, the Directorate General of Health instructed regional health agencies to“Anticipate disruption situations that may affect the supply of care and (of) secure the functioning of emergency medicine structures ”. Among the levers mentioned, the call for internal and external volunteering, the mobilization of the private sector and the requisition of liberals by request to the prefect.

If the risk of absenteeism does not affect, for the moment, the hospitals, the managers of departments and establishments questioned alert especially on new deprogramming of surgical and medical activities… On December 29, the direction of Public Assistance -Hôpitaux de Paris has already invited its sites to “Limit the activity scheduled for next week to treatments for which a vital prognosis is at stake, with the maintenance as far as possible of transplantation activities.” “

40,000 police and gendarmes

The security services are also preparing for all eventualities. “The situation is not alarming for any of the security forces, who are redoubling their vigilance in spite of everything”, we say in the entourage of the Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin.

If no figure on work stoppages is communicated, “Because it falls into the category of sensitive information on the availability of forces”, more than 40,000 police and gendarmes have been affected since the start of the pandemic, according to our information. And more than a thousand were positive in mid-December, out of a total contingent of 240,000. In 2020, more than 5,000 student police officers and gendarmes had been requisitioned to lend a hand in the field.

No release of prisoners

On the prison side, nearly 500 agents were positive for Covid-19 on December 27, while several clusters were declared in establishments such as those in Perpignan or Fleury-Mérogis. The management of the prison administration says “Able to quickly set up continuity plans if necessary, but this is not currently the case”.

“The workforce is sufficient to deal with sick leave, she continues. We also have local teams who can come as reinforcements, we can increase the number of guards, call back staff who are on vacation… In the worst case, it is possible to call in the internal security forces. “

This speech does not convince Wilfried Fonck, national secretary Ufap-Unsa who considers that the functioning of the establishments is likely to be ” undermined “ for lack of reinforcements, if a large number of agents were to be contaminated. Unlike March 2020, the Ministry of Justice has not yet made any announcements on possible early releases of prisoners at the end of their sentence.

Nuclear center

While such a pandemic is unprecedented, emergency plans are nonetheless prepared outside the Covid crisis. Since the mid-2000s, the State has identified some 250 “Operators of vital importance” (OIV), public services or companies, or private structures. The term implies their essential character to the life of the nation. These 250 managers are required to be ready to continue their activity in the event of a crisis. If their complete list is confidential, we know that large banking groups, large transport networks or energy suppliers are part of it.

Many large companies surveyed by The cross they also say “Confident”. In energy as in water or waste, for example, all have implemented “Business continuity plans” (PCA) since the start of the pandemic, in March 2020. At EDF, the PCA makes it possible to operate a nuclear power plant or a dam, with 25% fewer people for twelve weeks and 40% less for two or three weeks .

→ ANALYSIS. Covid-19: companies called for “general remobilization”

“Teams are used to working with small staff in the evenings and on weekends, and agents are always ready to replace sick colleagues at short notice, especially when there is a danger to the safety or security of supply. “, Says one at the head office of EDF.

At Veolia, work rules have also been revised to limit contamination. In the water, preventive or non-urgent tasks have been postponed and home interventions limited to the strict minimum. Waste collection is carried out with two people instead of three.

More TER affected

“Disturbance but not paralysis. ” This is what a source close to the SNCF provides. In Metz, a message appeared in the middle of December 29 on information boards, warning that “Traffic is interrupted at Metz station following a case of Covid at the switch post”. Here and there in France, the railway company must already, sometimes, reorganize its transport plan. From January 3, 10% of daily TER connections in Hauts-de-France will be canceled.

Regional trains are indeed more affected than TGVs. “Which is normal, given the scale ratio, we estimate at the SNCF. With 8,000 TER, the traffic is ten times more important than for TGVs and, for the same number of kilometers traveled in a day, the TER driver makes three times more trips than his colleague on the main lines. “

However, the railway company considers itself well-established to react to tense situations. Between the use of reserve personnel or management and the establishment of reduced traffic plans, SNCF does not expect the virus to derail it.

→ PRACTICAL. Fines, checks, children … The SNCF health pass, instructions for use

Likewise, a source close to the Île-de-France transport networks specifies that operators such as SNCF or RATP have multiple traffic scenarios, depending on the number of agents available. There are lines and schedules to be preferred, said this source. In particular those which we know carry more users who cannot telework. “ Teleworking, which has become compulsory for positions which allow it, could alleviate the demand for transport.

Banks ready

We are also quite serene on the side of mass distribution. “The stores have unfortunately been used to operating in degraded service since the start of the crisis, indicates Olivier Dauvers, specialist in mass distribution. In the extreme, service departments, such as the butcher’s shop or the fish market, could be closed. But a store can continue to operate by developing versatility, with people putting products on the shelves and others for checkouts. “

Agribusiness and banks say they are ready

Same confidence displayed on the side of the food industry where, if some companies are working in degraded mode, it is estimated that there is not, to date, “Risk on production and supply to stores. ““The coordination units with other players in the sector have been reactivated so that we can anticipate”, says a source close to employers’ federations in the sector.

Logistics chains will need road transport… in working order, while the profession has experienced a shortage of drivers for several years. However, while officials in the sector say they are vigilant, they believe that plans “Solid” business continuity are planned. According to an economist, it is not impossible that, in the worst case, the army could also lend a hand to certain strategic deliveries.

Finally, the French, individuals and businesses, should not lack financial services, the banks having been organized since the start of the pandemic to adapt the functioning of agencies and headquarters. Even outside the crisis, at the Banque de France, a “Robustness place group” brings together banking institutions, market infrastructures, financial authorities and State services to ensure the “Capacity of the financial system to cope with operational shocks” with possible scenarios… such as a pandemic.

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