France to enter second national lockdown from Friday as all residents told to stay at home until December 1

Harriet Brewis
·3-min read
REUTERS
REUTERS

France is to impose a second national lockdown this week, Emmanuel Macron has announced.

The new measures, which will come into force on Friday, mean all French residents will have to stay in their homes except to buy essential goods, seek medical attention, or use their daily one-hour allocation of exercise.

After more than 520 coronavirus deaths were recorded across the country on Tuesday, the French leader said a new nationwide shutdown would be the only possible way to successfully curb the Covid-19 onslaught.

The tough new restrictions will initially remain in place until December 1, the French president said.

In two weeks time, if the situation has improved, the government will review the possibility of re-opening some shops deemed non-essential, he added.

People will still be allowed to travel into work if they are unable to do their job from home, Mr Macron told a televised briefing on Wednesday evening.

In a departure from the previous lockdown in March, most schools will remain open, he confirmed.

"The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated," the president warned.

"Like all our neighbours, we are submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus.

"We are all in the same position: overrun by a second wave which we know will be harder, more deadly than the first."

The French government is expected to lay out further details of the new measures on Thursday.

The latest restrictions echo the eight-week lockdown that France enforced in the spring, when Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths reached a peak.

The nationwide shutdown was effective at containing the epidemic, but infections began to surge again after it the rules were relaxed in May, and people began congregating in classrooms, universities, bars and restaurants.

The 523 new daily Covid-19 deaths reported in France on Tuesday marked the highest 24-hour increase since April, when the first wave was at its most severe.

Doctors in the country have warned that intensive care units risk becoming overwhelmed.

While France's death toll, at over 35,000, is ranked seventh highest in the world.

Earlier this month, Mr Macron announced a night-time curfew in Paris and other big cities, but officials this week acknowledged that measure had proved insufficient to bring down infection rates, requiring a more drastic response.

"Nothing is more important than human life," Mr Macron said, as he acknowledged the country was seeing between 40,000 and 50,000 new infections every day.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that the Europe region – which, according to its definition, includes Russia, Turkey, Israel and Central Asia – accounted for almost half of the 2.8 million new coronavirus cases reported globally last week.

The UN health agency said virus-related deaths were also on the rise across the continent, with fatalities rising by around 35 per cent compared to the previous seven days.

"We are deep in the second wave," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels.

"I think that this year's Christmas will be very different."

The European Union, UK, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland alone accounted for 1.1 million cases over the past seven days, she said, "and we expect this number to keep rising in the next two to three weeks, and rapidly".

France's announcement comes just hours after German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed her country would enter a four-week circuit breaker at the start of next week.

The move will see restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatres and other leisure facilities shut across Germany from Monday.

Announcing the measures, Mrs Merkel said: “We can say that our health system can cope with the challenge today, but if the pace of infections continues like this, then we’ll reach the limits of what the health system can manage within weeks.”

After the news broke, the country's finance minister Olaf Scholz tweeted a sobering message: "November will be a month of truth."

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