New Year lockdown fears grow as health task force decide fate of France's Covid-hit regions

·2-min read

Despite the positive news of the roll-out of a Covid-19 vaccination campaign, the French are ending 2020 with the threat of a possible third lockdown, which could be implemented on a regional or local basis.

Covid-19 infection rates coming out of France’s Grand Est region have been troubling President Emmanuel Macron's administration, triggering an emergency meeting of a health defense council on Tuesday.

It is not yet known whether new lockdown measures will be decided at today’s gathering, but regional politicians already have their own idea of what the outcome may be.

According to Jean Rottner, president of the Grand Est region, "The main question will be whether we will have recourse to a new, potentially localized lockdown." He comment comes following a meeting on Sunday with French Health Ministern, Olivier Véran where they "analyzed the situation at length.”

What remains to be seen is the scale and scope of the localized lockdowns.

“The region? The department? A city? These are questions that we are asking ourselves which I think will be discussed [at today’s emergency meeting] with the President of the Republic", Rottner added.

"If there is a decision to be made, I hope it will be taken and that we will not have to wait another week," he concluded.

Ahead of today’s meeting, former socialist minister and presidential candidate Ségolène Royal called on the government to make "tailor-made" decisions for individual regions most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A little earlier, Mathieu Klein, the mayor of the eastern city of Nancy had already stated that a local lockdown was "inevitable".

Conversely, the mayor of the Mediterranean city of Nice, Christian Estrosi, underlined that a new lockdown is unpalatable: "We do not want a new confinement, because the population has suffered enough from the strict measures already imposed.”

5000 case target remains elusive

Over the last seven days, an average of 12,000 new daily cases of contamination have been detected across France, which is a relatively stable plateau, but remains far from the target of 5,000 set by the government.

The eastern half of the country is particularly affected, and health professionals fear it will get worse following the Christmas festivities.

If the curfew had been exceptionally lifted for Christmas Eve, it will be in fully implemented for New Year's Eve on Thursday, and France’s health authorities have appealed to people to act responsibly and limit their contacts.

France had already been drastically confined from March to May, then faced lighter restrictions from 30 October to 14 December, when lockdown was replaced by a nighttime curfew.

Meanwhile Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (CPME) has also pleaded that rolling lockdowns should not be trivialized, saying such measures "must be the last option to put an end to an uncontrollable situation, and not just one hypothesis among others."