French prime minister Jean Castex on Thursday scuppered hopes of an early reopening of shops and restaurants when he declared at least two more weeks of a nationwide lockdown aimed at stemming a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The premier’s announcement came as a survey revealed that more than half of French people have broken the regulations for the second period of restrictions.
The poll showed that 60 percent had flouted the rules at least once, either by giving a false reason for going out on their self-signed permission slip or by meeting up with family and friends.
The figure was far higher than during the first lockdown when the proportion of rule-breakers stood at under 40 percent during the first six weeks.
During a televised press conference on Thursday night, Castex revealed there have been more than 42,000 Covid deaths in France.
"The second wave is extremely strong," he said. "One in four deaths is now due to Covid.”
Despite the grim statistics, Castex said that new Covid cases had fallen by 16 percent in first week of the current lockdown,
“The peak in the hospitals should come next week according to our projections," he added. “If it goes to plan, there could be a relaxation of restrictions from 1 December.
"I know of the anguish of businesses and our goal is to reopen before Christmas.
“However, my job is not to do what everyone hopes for but to do what is sensible so that we don’t reopen too soon and then have to close down again and for even longer.
“Let’s be clear though, the idea is to get everything going so that people can be together at Christmas but it will not be reasonable to organise big parties on New Year’s Eve.”
Castex was joined during the hour-long meeting by health minister Olivier Veran, labour minister Elisabeth Borne, economy minister Bruno Le Maire and education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer who outlined the responses of their various departments.
Borne said there had been a rise in the number of people working with their computers from home.
“I’m aware we are asking a lot from employers and employees to do this,” she said. “But every hour that it is done like this really counts.”