France’s extension of a light Covid-19 lockdown from 19 areas to all of the mainland and the Mediterranean island Corsica came into effect on Sunday. It will last at least four weeks.
The French government had been trying to stem Covid-19’s resurgence with regional measures – but now across the country non-essential businesses are closed and people’s trips are limited to a 10km radius around their homes.
The definition of essential businesses is far more expansive than it was during the strict first lockdown in spring 2020: Bookshops, hairdressers, florists chocolate shops, music shops and car dealerships can all remain open.
The 6am-7pm curfew was also extended from the 19 regions including Paris to all of mainland France and Corsica.
Travel between different French regions has been banned for the duration of the nationwide light lockdown, unless people have a “compelling” or work-related reason for it.
Unveiling the measures on March 31, French President Emmanuel Macron also announced that schools will be closed starting from Tuesday – for three weeks for nursery and primary school pupils and four weeks for middle and high-school students. The “French exception” of keeping schools open since the end of the first lockdown in spring 2020 had received intensifying criticism over the previous weeks.
The extended light lockdown measures came into effect after France announced on Saturday that 5,273 people were in intensive care with Covid-19, a rise of 19 from the previous day.
This rise followed a much bigger jump on Friday – the highest in five months at 145.
France's tally of confirmed cases is running at nearly 40,000 new registered cases per day on average, having roughly doubled over the course of March. Health authorities did not publish new case numbers on Saturday, citing a problem with the flow of data from some test results.
Macron pledged more hospital beds to care for critically ill Covid-19 patients in his March 31 televised address.
The president also vowed to “accelerate the vaccine programme as much as possible” – promising that anyone over 60 will be able to get a jab from April 16 and anyone over 50 from May 15. He emphasised that jabs are the route out of the nightmare: “Thanks to vaccines, the end of the crisis is on the horizon.”
But as the EU's troubled jab procurement programme has led to slow inoculation rates, France had given out a vaccine dose to just 12.96 percent of its population by April 1 – compared to 46.11 percent in the UK, where the vaccine programme has raced ahead.
A mere 35 percent of French people trust the government to deal with the epidemic, according to a poll by Ifop published in newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche on Sunday.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP and AFP)