French Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced a tranche of stricter measures aimed at avoiding a third national lockdown in the government’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Castex emerged from a 90-minute defence council meeting with President Emmanuel Macron and top ministers to declare that France would close its borders with non-European Union (EU) countries from Sunday.
Entry into France from EU countries will depend on a negative test for the disease except for cross-border workers, he said.
And from Sunday, voyages to and from French overseas territories such as Guadeloupe and Martinique will be banned unless there are compelling reasons for travelling, Castex added during a 17-minute TV broadcast.
“We can still give ourselves a chance to avoid a third lockdown.
“Even though the question of a lockdown legitimately arises in view of recent data and a high risk of accelerating the epidemic.”
Castex said that non-food commercial shopping centres of more than 20,000 square metres would close from Monday and he underlined the importance of employees working from home whenever possible.
“I want to hail the work of the doctors and nurses and all the emergency services,” Castex added.
“Police and gendarmes will be deployed to make sure the 6pm curfew is strictly observed.
“They will also check on any restaurants which are open illegally and they will break up any parties.
“The next days will be crucial as to whether there is another lockdown and we must do everything to respect the rules.”
The defence council meeting had been scheduled for Saturday morning but Macron advanced the talks to consider the impact of the overnight curfews which were imposed two weeks ago to stem the spread of the coronavirus and its variants.
Psychologists, child psychiatrists and union representatives also attended the meeting at the Elysée Palace as part of the effort to assess the mental health of French citizens.
In Paris, the Necker hospital reported more under 15s with problems.
“During the first confinement last year between March and May we had more incidents of children being mistreated,” Pauline Chaste, head of the child psychiatry service at the hospital told BFM TV.
“When schools closed lots of children had their lives turned upside down and since the second confinement in November, we’ve seen a rise in psychological problems.”
On Friday, the public health institute reported 22,858 new cases of the coronavirus and a death toll of 75,620 since the start of the pandemic in January 2020.
Castex added: "We have to avoid a third lockdown. All the sacrifices we have made have been effective."