Paris, Nice and more than a dozen other French areas will go into a total lockdown for a month amid rising COVID-19 infections and saturation of hospitals in various regions, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday.
Sixteen areas of the country known as departments It will go into closure from Friday amid a third wave of infections that will include the entire île-de-France region, including Paris, and the northern region of the country.
The Alpes-Maritimes region, where Nice is located, will also be blocked. Travel from closed areas will be prohibited.
In areas under lockdown, schools will remain open, but high schools will be limited to half capacity as part of the measures. Non-essential stores will need to close, while bookstores will be allowed to remain open in regions that are closed.
During the confinement, people will be able to walk and play sports without a time limit, but they must have a justification form and stay within 10 kilometers of their homes.
Nationwide, France will move its curfew from 6 pm to 7 pm starting this Saturday. However, Castex said that people should remain vigilant.
Citing a study from the Institut Pasteur, Castex said that 29% of the cases were at work. He said that half of the contaminations at work were due to people going to work while they had symptoms. He implored that people work from home at least four out of every five days.
The French prime minister said the situation had worsened considerably in the country, with the UK variant now accounting for nearly 75% of cases.
Younger and healthier people are entering intensive care, where they are hospitalized for longer periods of time, he said.
Castex said the acceleration of the virus looked like a “third wave” as the country approaches nearly 100,000 deaths from COVID-19.
“Living with the virus is not forgetting that it can touch anyone at any time. But it is living anyway, and we can with a mask, with preventive measures … physical distancing and aeration of rooms,” said Health Minister Olivier . Véran said.
Restrictions expected in the Paris region
The new restrictions come a day after French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to a hospital in Poissy, in the Paris suburbs, to speak with healthcare workers. A health worker told the president that the situation was worrisome with the admission of younger people to the hospital.
Macron said on Wednesday that the crisis was going to “hit very hard until mid-April,” according to several French media.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in an interview with TV5Monde on Thursday that she felt the two scenarios proposed by the government would be “difficult” for the people.
Hidalgo said that many people live in small apartments and will also need to be able to walk outside in the region.
“Nor can we reduce people to work and return home,” he said, saying that a weekend closure seemed “inhumane”, but that it would support the government whatever it decides.
A complicated situation of COVID-19 at the national level
France had already implemented a twelve-hour curfew starting in January that started at 18:00 CET, after which people can no longer go outside unless they have a reason, such as going to or coming back from work or a medical appointment. That curfew will move to 19:00 CET nationwide.
However, infections have remained high in the country, with a plateau of more than 20,000 new infections in recent weeks. That has slowly increased in recent weeks, with the country registering more than 38,000 new infections on Wednesday.
Public Health France said in its latest epidemiological summary on March 11 that 66% of infections in France were due to the most transmissible variant in the UK. That number is now nearly 75%, Castex said Thursday.
Across the country, the percentage of people in intensive care compared to the number of beds originally placed is around 83%. In the Île-de-France region, it’s 101%, according to the French COVID-19 surveillance app Tous Anti Covid.
The government increased COVID vaccines in the capital, but it hasn’t gone fast enough, many say, amid criticism of the overall European vaccination strategy.
So far, 5.5 million people in the country have received a first blow, representing about 8.3% of the total population. By the summer, France hopes to vaccinate 30 million people.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism