French PM Castex extends Covid-19 curfew to 38 more departments as cases surge

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Six days after curfews came into effect in greater Paris and eight other metropolitan areas, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced new measures to stem the spread of coronavirus as cases rise across the country.

Hours after the new measures were announced, France recorded 41,622 new Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, a new daily record.

"The second wave is here" and "the situation is grave", Castex said in a news conference on Thursday as he announced the extension of coronavirus curfew measures to 38 more administrative departments throughout France.

The new measures are due to come into effect at midnight on Friday. The prime minister said the curfew would now impact a total of 46 million people, or two-thirds of the French population, and would include some overseas territories.

“Clearly, the weeks to come will be difficult, our hospital services will be put to the test,” Castex said.

The prime minister said the curfew measures would remain in place for six weeks, adding that the situation would be evaluated next week and that curfew rules might be tightened if necessary.

“If we fail to stop the pandemic, we will be facing a dire situation and we will have to envisage much tougher measures,” Castex said. “We still have time to avoid that but we don’t have much time,” he added.

A nightly curfew from 9pm to 6am went into effect at midnight Saturday in Paris and its surrounding administrative departments as well as eight other metropolitan areas – Aix-Marseille, Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Toulouse, Lille, Montpellier, Rouen and Grenoble – in response to daily new infections reaching record levels. Those curfews already affected some 20 million French people.

Residents need to download a certificate for activities permitted after hours – such as travel to or from work, for medical attention, to visit a dependent relative or to walk a dog.

Those who do not comply risk a fine of €135 while repeat offenders could face fines of up to €3,750. Some 12,000 police officers and gendarmes, in addition to municipal police teams, were deployed to enforce the initial curfews.

Castex said on Thursday that it would be possible next week to see whether the previously announced curfews were beginning to have an effect on the spread of the virus.

The French departments to be subject to the new curfew measures are: Ain, Alpes-Maritimes, Ardèche, Ardennes, Ariège, Aube, Aveyron, Bas-Rhin, Calvados, Corse du Sud, Côte-d’Or, Drôme, Gard, Haute-Corse, Haute-Loire, Haute-Savoie, Haute-Vienne, Hautes-Alpes, Hautes-Pyrénées, Ille-et-Vilaine, Indre-et-Loire, Jura, Loiret, Lozère, Maine-et-Loire, Marne, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Oise, Pas-de-Calais, Puy-de-Dôme, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Pyrénées-Orientales, Saône-et-Loire, Savoie, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Var, and Vaucluse. Further afield, French Polynesia will also be affected by the curfew.

The French health ministry reported a record number of new confirmed cases on Saturday at 32,427, surpassing the 32,000 mark for the first time, while the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care rose above 2,000 on Monday for the first time since May. The country reported 166 deaths in hospital in 24 hours on Wednesday, taking the French death toll since the start of the epidemic above 34,000.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)