Covid-19: French Polynesia closes schools, tightens lockdown for two weeks

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Schools in French Polynesia will be closed from Monday because of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Pacific territory's president has announced, as part of a two-week tightening of the lockdown.

"We have decided to limit as much as possible [...] the movements of the population in the most affected areas" for "two weeks from Monday", said High Commissioner Dominique Sorain on Friday (Saturday in Paris), while the Covid-19 incidence rate has reached 2,800 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Polynesia, the highest rate in France.

These restrictions will concern the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands, the most populated archipelagos of Polynesia where "the epidemic is progressing the most," added Sorain.

"The ban on movement is becoming the rule for the time being", with an obligation to provide proof of a series of exemptions: going to work and training, getting medical treatment or vaccinations, assisting a vulnerable person or making essential purchases.

Shops selling non-essential goods, leisure activities, restaurants and bars "will have to temporarily cease their activity" and "leisure travel will be temporarily suspended", he added.

Curfew brought forward to 8pm

As for the curfew, which used to run from 9pm to 4am, it will be brought forward to start at 8pm throughout French Polynesia.

The lockdown only during the weekend is maintained on the islands concerned in Tuamotu Gambier, the Marquesas and the Australs are not concerned.

Concerning schools, "we will close our primary and secondary schools, while ensuring the educational continuity of our children in primary and secondary schools, from Monday," said the territory's president Edouard Fritch.

"The spread of the Delta virus in our schools over the last two days requires a strong reaction on our part," he added, noting that nearly 40% of students in primary schools and nearly 30% in secondary schools were absent.

Students in the French overseas territory started school a fortnight ago, but many schools and colleges have already closed after the virus spread among children and teachers.

On Friday morning, the assembly of French Polynesia had already voted for compulsory vaccination, particularly for carers and people in contact with vulnerable people, as well as for patients on long-term illness.

(with AFP)

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