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Coronavirus: France announces second lockdown

Alistair Walsh
October 28, 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced new lockdown measures for France. There were more than 36,000 new cases reported in the past 24 hours.

French President Emmanuel Macron is seen on a TV screen in Paris on October 28, 2020, as he delivers an evening televised address to the nation, to announce new measures aimed curbing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic,
Image: Sébastien Muylaert/MAXPPP/dpa/picture alliance

France will enter a new coronavirus lockdown on Friday until at least December 1.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced the new restrictions in a speech from the Elysee palace after an emergency meeting. It came shortly after neighboring Germany announced a new lockdown.

New restrictions

  • People can only leave home to go to work, to go to school, for a medical appointment, to give assistance to loved ones, for essential shopping or for one hour of physical exercise
  • People will need to show documentation when leaving the house
  • Travel between regions is banned
  • Bars, restaurants and nonessential businesses will be closed
  • Work must be done remotely wherever possible
  • Universities and higher education will mostly be taught online
  • International borders will remain largely closed

What is allowed

  • Schools will remain open
  • Essential businesses will remain open 
  • Most public services will remain open
  • Factories, farms and construction sites can continue work
  • EU borders will remain open
  • French citizens can return from overseas
  • Retirement homes can accept visits
  • Funerals are still possible

Read more: Coronavirus: France faces lockdown amid surging cases

The rules apply to all of France, but there will be an exception for the upcoming All Saint's holiday weekend. 

Authorities will reassess the situation in 15 days. French Prime Minister Jean Castex will announce further details on Thursday, just before the lockdown goes into effect.

"We were all surprised by the acceleration of the epidemic. We must remain united and in solidarity and not give in to the poison of division. This is a difficult time, but it is a sign of who we are, women and men who are bound together," Macron said.

"I have confidence in us, in you, in our ability to overcome this ordeal. We must each take our place in transparency, in debate, in the determination to apply the rules we set for ourselves. We are a united and supportive nation, and that is the only way we will succeed. We are France. I am counting on you. We will all get there together," he concluded.

Economic support

Macron said there would be widespread economic support for people and business affected by the lockdown.

Small businesses will have access to €10,000 ($11,700) per month in assistance, employees will continue to receive short-term work assistance and people who have trouble paying rent will receive assistance.

A large proportion of the country is already facing strict measures, with two-thirds of the population under a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for the past two weeks, however Macron said this was still ineffective.

The new lockdown measures are slightly more relaxed than the country's first in spring, when people were confined to their homes for eight weeks under strict conditions and schools were closed.

The only way

Macron said the new lockdown was urgent due to the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed.

"If we do not take action now ... then our hospitals will be overwhelmed, and this time around we will not be able to transfer patients to other regions because the virus is everywhere," Macron said.

"It is my responsibility to protect all French citizens."

More than 3,000 people are currently in intensive care in France, according to the latest figures, with more than half of intensive care beds now occupied by COVID-19 patients. 

France has the highest number of infections in Europe, with more than 36,000 new infections detected in the past 24 hours.

Macron said the goal of the new lockdown was to reduce new daily infections to 5,000.

The pandemic has already killed more than 35,000 people in France since it began.

Macron rejected the idea of herd immunity, saying this would kill an additional 400,000 French people and lead to hospitals triaging all patients.

"France could never stand by and see hundreds of thousands of its citizens die. It is not in line with French values and it is not in our interests."

He said isolating just the elderly and at risk was not viable, because of their need for human contact and their reliance on outside help. Increasing testing and tracing was also not going to help enough, as it was already proving ineffective. And increasing ICU capacity is already underway, but it takes too long to cope with the influx of patients.

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