New French premier promises help for virus-hit French Guiana

CAYENNE, French Guiana (AP) — As virus numbers soar in French Guiana, France’s new prime minister traveled Sunday to the South American territory and promised not to ignore its suffering.

French Guiana, which borders Brazil, now accounts for about a quarter of new daily cases reported in all of France, though has less than 0.5% of the French population. More than a quarter of tests in French Guiana have been positive in recent weeks, according to public health agency statistics.

In an unusually long-distance trip just a week after he joined the French government, Prime Minister Jean Castex and other top officials visited a field hospital set up to help handle virus patients, a food distribution center and a virus crisis center.

“Our presence testifies to the support of the entire government: in this ordeal, we will not leave anyone on the side of the road,” Castex tweeted from the trip.

The government has sent in medics and the army has flown patients to the French Caribbean island of Martinique to relieve strapped French Guiana hospitals.

However Castex didn’t publicly announce any specific new aid during the one-day trip, and did not meet directly with the territory’s locked-down population, conferring instead with medical workers, aid workers and local officials.

The virus has highlighted inequalities that have long plagued territories like French Guiana, a former colony that is now considered an integral part of France and uses the euro currency. Some 60% of its population lives below the French poverty level, and local officials and activists lament large swathes of territory without medical care and shortages of medical professionals.

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