Several of France’s overseas departments see concerning rise in coronavirus cases, prompting caution


France’s overseas territory of French Guiana has new cause for concern, as 67 cases of the coronavirus were reported there from the weekend.

The territory, in northeastern South America on the border with Brazil, has seen a spike in cases in recent weeks, enough so that US President Donald Trump banned any travel to and from there.

Even though lockdown restrictions were lifted in Guiana on May 11 as with the rest of the republic, the number of infections for the region’s 300,000 inhabitants has risen 128% in that time, going from 144 to 328.

Most worrisome is the country’s proximity to Brazil, now only second in the world to the US in infections. Infections went from the first recorded case on Feb. 25 to the present figure of 374,898. The first death in Brazil was recorded on March 17. There are now 23,473 dead.

As of Monday, 27 new cases of coronavirus were found in the French Guianan town of Saint-Georges Oyapock. The town lies on the border with Brazil.

France maintains five overseas collectives, or territories, around the globe, most of which are departments or regions of the nation of France. French Guiana has a population of some 291,000.

In France, normalization only happened after weeks of very strict lockdown, imposed by President Emmanuel Macron from March 17 to May 11. All non-essential businesses were shuttered nationwide and a declaration was needed just to leave the house. Bars, restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs remain closed however in both mainland France and the territories until June 2, and gatherings over 10 people are not allowed.

Mayotte and other overseas regions

The other island territory of concern is Mayotte, in the Indian Ocean, which has seen cases go from one on March 10 to over 1,600. The peak of infection in Mayotte is not expected until May 30. There have been 20 fatalities to date.

The situation had been so concerning there that Annick Girardin, the overseas minister, visited on May 19, accompanied by military and health personnel and bringing testing equipment, nine respirators, and 850,000 masks.

One million masks had already been delivered to Mayotte the week before the minister’s visit and 11 more tons of supplies were to be delivered over the next days.

“This crisis has taught us to work with local actors. We must give hope,” the minister said.

France’s many other territories have seen sizable numbers of cases of infection, such as 456 on Reunion Island, 197 on Martinique, and 161 on the island of Guadeloupe.

The coronavirus is present in 188 out of 195 countries in the world, with global cases of infection standing at nearly 5.52 million and fatalities of nearly 347,000.

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