Two weeks into a second lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of Covid-19, French Prime Minister Jean Castex told a news conference Thursday that lockdown measures would remain in place until December as scheduled. Any loosening of restrictions after December 1 would be "strictly limited" to certain businesses, he said.
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Any loosening of restrictions after that date would be "strictly limited" to certain businesses and would exclude bars, restaurants and sports halls, Castex said.
One in four deaths in France were now due to Covid-19, he said. The number of people in hospital care for Covid-19 in France is now higher than during a previous peak in April.
There were now more than 32,000 Covid patients in hospitals, Castex told the news briefing, adding that a new Covid-19 case was admitted to hospital every 30 seconds and one into intensive care every three minutes.
The government will impose further restrictions if the coronavirus outbreak worsens in the coming days but could also decide to loosen restrictions over the holidays if the situations warrants it.
France is two weeks into a new national lockdown that has hit the economy but some politicians are hoping that if the country's Covid-19 figures improve the country may be able to re-open major shops and businesses for Christmas.
Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said earlier Thursday that the economic boost provided by the crucial Christmas shopping season could be salvaged — provided people abide by the health restrictions until then.
"What I wish is that we can save December for retailers ... What will dictate the decision of the prime minister and of the president is the protection of the safety of the French population," Le Maire told BFM Business radio.
"We could have a dynamic December" if the population sticks to current guidelines, he added.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)