'Lenient' start to France's stringent new lockdown as police dish out 5,000 fines

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French police will be stepping up lockdown inspections from Monday after a “lenient” start to the nationwide reconfinement that saw nearly 5,000 people fined for breaking the rules.

Interior Ministor Gérald Darmanin told BFMTV more than 100,000 checks have been carried out since strict new measures came into effect on Friday – with police now under orders to carry out “reinforced controls”.

"The first days of real confinement, if I dare say so, are starting today", Darmanin said, adding the flexibility over the weekend – the end of school holidays – was to allow people to return from vacation.

Non-essential businesses including restaurants, bars and shops have been closed until at least 1 December as France tackles a difficult second wave of coronavirus infections.

Schools remain open this time round, however, with people permitted to leave their homes for work, medical appointments, grocery shopping and exercise.

Among those fined over the weekend were 100 people who had gathered for a private party "in the backyard” of a restaurant in Paris’s 17th arrondissement Darmanin said.

Anyone found to be in violation of the lockdown receives a fine of 135 euros, which is increased to between 200 and 450 euros in the event of a repeat offence within 15 days. Three violations in the same month risks a prison sentence of 6 months and a fine of 3,750 euros.

While conceding the lockdown was “not natural”, Darmanin criticised the "demagogy" of some local mayors who have issued decrees authorising the opening of small shops.