French President Emmanuel Macron announced a curfew in the capital and eight of the country’s largest cities to stem the relentless spread of the coronavirus, as rising infections begin to fill hospital beds.
“This virus is dangerous and serious for everyone,” Macron said during a televised interview on Wednesday. “We are at a stage where we must react.”
The curfew will run from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. in Paris, Saint Etienne, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Rouen, Aix-Marseille, Toulouse and Montpellier, starting on Saturday, and will last four weeks, possibly until December 1.
The French government has been struggling to impose restrictions without inflicting the same economic damage caused by a national shutdown earlier this year. The delicate balancing act was evident when he advocated for people to book the October holidays, even as cities like Paris were closing bars and restaurants early to contain the disease.
“I don’t think the measures are disproportionate,” Macron said. “If we don’t want to take stricter measures, we have to respect them.”
France entered a strict national confinement in March and gradually reopened starting in May. As the contagion increases again, it is affecting more vulnerable people.
The country reported 22,591 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the weekly average close to 18,000. Covid-related deaths increased by 104 to 33,037.
Meanwhile, the weekly rate of covid-19 cases increased to more than 17,000 per day, from less than 12,000 a week ago, and more than 40% of intensive care beds are used for covid patients in the Paris region. , the most populated in France. That figure could rise to 90% by the end of the month, according to Assistance Publique-Hopitaux de Paris, which means more non-covid operations will be postponed.
Macron said the situation in French hospitals is “unsustainable” and that the target will reduce new cases from 4,000 to 3,000 a day, which he described as a manageable level.
Similar dilemmas are developing in Europe. The Dutch government announced Tuesday that it would close bars and restaurants as part of a “partial closure” that will last at least four weeks. Italy imposed new restrictions on nightlife, social events and amateur sports, while the British prime minister announced on Monday that bars and pubs will close in the hardest-hit parts of England. In Germany, the authorities have warned not to claim victory.
Economy at risk
France’s economy had shown signs of recovering rapidly in May, with businesses investing and consumers spending some of their accumulated savings. But towards the end of the summer, when virus cases began to rise, polls showed a decline in confidence and activity in various sectors, well below pre-crisis levels.
The country’s statistics agency said earlier this month that it expects the economic expansion to stop in the final months of the year.. A prolonged tightening of sanitary restrictions could even push the economy back into recession, he said.
The French government’s strategy to quell the epidemic has come under fire at home, most recently because an expensive plan to test as many people as possible failed when shortages resulted in delays in obtaining results, causing the campaign to tests were ineffective.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jean Castex, whose popularity is weakening in polls, said the government was seeking to avoid a general lockdown “by all means.”
“We are learning to be a nation again,” Macron said in the interview. “We had gotten used to being individuals. But we are a united nation and we will succeed ”.