Paris has decided to go on a month-long COVID-19 lockdown, starting Friday, March 19, 2021, amid fears of a third wave in the country. French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that the month-long limited lockdown for Paris and other regions of the country has been undertaken following a rise in the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. He informed that the new restrictions would take effect from Friday midnight and will last four weeks. The restrictions will be imposed on 16 regions, including the Paris Ile de France area.
However, the new measures will not be as strict as the previous lockdown. While non-essential businesses will close and movement outside will be restricted in the affected regions, schools and essential shops, including bookstores, will remain open. People will also be allowed to do outdoor exercise up to 10 kilometres from home but will not have permission to travel to other parts of the country unless absolutely necessary with a valid reason. Those in the affected areas will have to fill out a form explaining why they have left their homes.
On January 16, France introduced a 6pm curfew that initially planned to be rolled out for 15 days but continued to remain in place. The new rules have reduced the curfew and will now begin at 7pm. With an average between 25,000 – 30,000 new infections per day, Prime Minister Castex said the third wave of infections across the country was looking highly likely. From Friday, France will also resume vaccinating using the AstraZeneca vaccine following the EMA’s announcement that the jab was safe and fit for use.
The latest lockdown announcement falls on the week of the one-year anniversary of France’s first nationwide lockdown. It was back on March 16, 2020, that President Emmanuel Macron introduced then lockdown that went into effect at midday on March 17, 2020, and ended 55 days later on May 10. France’s second lockdown began in November although the daily rise in infections never came below 5000 in the country, with the number rising in 2021 again. With 4.11 million people infected since the start of the outbreak, France has the sixth-highest case count in the world.
President Macron had strongly argued against a third national lockdown and instead preferred to enforce local restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus and rising numbers of the more contagious British variant of COVID-19. He mentioned that the present situation is critical and is going to be very hard until mid-April. National figures for daily infections had remained steady at around 20,000 a day in February, but new cases have risen 20 percent in the last week alone. More than 91,000 people have died in France from the disease, according to an official count.
By Joe Cusmano