MSF started activities linked to COVID 19 in France, focusing on vulnerable people living in the streets, such as migrants. On March 24th, 700 people were evacuated from a camp in Aubervilliers near Paris, where they were living in precarious conditions. They were dispatched on various emergency shelters located in Paris and Ile de France. MSF teams are deployed in some of these shelters to evaluate their health and identify potential COVID 19 cases. © Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF

COVID-19: MSF prepares for action in France as spread continues

Faced with the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic, the French health system is strengthening its capacity to prevent and treat cases. This week, in consultation with France’s health authorities, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is setting up activities to help detect and manage COVID-19 cases among the most vulnerable populations in Paris and the surrounding region.

People in precarious situations, such as migrants, the homeless and unaccompanied minors, are particularly vulnerable to the epidemic. Whether they live in substandard housing or in overcrowded, makeshift encampments, unsanitary environments like these foster the spread of the virus among people excluded from health care systems often in poor health brought on by their living conditions.

“In the context of the coronavirus epidemic, we are particularly concerned about the fate of people in precarious situations,” explains MSF’s Deputy Operations Director Pierre Mendiharat. If nothing is done to detect and isolate cases, the disease risks spreading among them particularly quickly. And all the more so, as these people who live on the margins of services available to the general population can be difficult to reach.”

MSF teams are currently working out the details of their activities with partner medico-social associations and the Ile-de-France Regional Health Agency. They are to include mobile consultations and screening to be able to reach out to the most vulnerable, and support with diagnosis, isolation and case management in both existing and prospective shelters.

“Our contribution in France is part of initiatives MSF has already launched in other countries, Italy, for example, and those our teams may develop in the weeks to come in countries where we already had projects before COVID-19 broke out,” continues Pierre Mendiharat.

MSF teams are also continuing to deliver medical care around the world, although this assistance is under threat in many places due to the imposition of travel restrictions and constraints on the movement of people and goods.