France announces second coronavirus lockdown
Second wave 'will be harder and more fatal than the first,' says Macron.
PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron announced a national lockdown starting Friday, with many businesses, including restaurants and bars, to be closed. Schools, public services and some factories will remain open.
“The virus is circulating in France at a speed that even the most pessimistic predictions had not anticipated,” Macron said in a televised address on Wednesday evening. “We are all in Europe surprised by the speed of spread of the virus … we are overwhelmed by a second wave that will be harder and more fatal than the first.”
Unlike the first lockdown in the spring, crèches and schools will remain open while universities will have to adopt distance learning. Visits to nursing homes will be allowed — they were banned during the first lockdown.
People have been told to stay home except to make essential journeys, to take exercise or to go to work if remote working is not possible. People who do go out will need to carry a form — available via the government’s corona app Tous Anti Covid or its website — explaining why.
Remote working will be encouraged when possible, but public services as well as factories, farms and the construction sector will remain working, the president announced.
The nationwide policy will be enforced from Friday and run through December, with a review in 15 days.
Government ministers are expected to announce more details on the new measures on Thursday afternoon, after a debate and a vote in parliament.
The French government was reluctant to impose a new lockdown for fear of the hit on the economy. Employers’ federation MEDEF warned that a total shutdown could lead to mass layoffs and bankruptcies.
France introduced a curfew two weeks ago, banning travel between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m in high-risk regions, but Macron said Wednesday that “it’s not enough, it’s no longer enough.”
France has experienced a rapid increase in infections since August and reached a new peak on Sunday, with 52,000 new cases in 24 hours. Hospitals are already showing signs of stress in major cities, with 70 percent of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in the Paris region.
The president also said that he would coordinate with other EU member states during a leaders’ videoconference on Thursday and again every two weeks to exchange views on the European health response and see if measures could progressively be alleviated.
“Our internal borders within the European area will remain open and, with few exceptions, the external borders will remain closed,” Macron said.
French residents who live abroad will have to provide a negative test at airports and no traveller will be allowed to return to the EU unless they are clear of virus.