Schools close as France bunkers down in third Covid-19 lockdown

·2-min read

After the Easter weekend, when travel between regions was tolerated, France Tuesday entered a national lockdown in a bid to curb the third wave of Covid-19 infections and ease pressure on hospitals, even as the vaccination drive picks up speed.

People were allowed to travel this weekend to choose where they would isolate themselves, ahead of restrictions limiting travel to a radius of 10 kilometres from home.

Parents were allowed to drop off children with their grandparents, as schools and daycares are closed as of Tuesday morning for three weeks. Millions of parents are juggling working from home with homeschooling and childcare for the first time since the first lockdown last year,

School closures, travel restrictions, the shuttering of non-essential shops nationwide, in addition to the 7pm-6am curfew already in place, are aimed at slowing Covid-19 infections and reduce hospitalisations, especially critical cases entering already full ICU units.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Friday that a peak in infections is expected in the next ten days, and a peak in critical cases by the end of April, possibly reaching the record of 7,000 ICU beds occupied during the first wave. Hospitals have increased ICU capacity to 8,000 beds, but at the expense of most other operations and medical procedures, which have been postponed.

Some are sceptical that these lockdown measures, which are lighter than previous ones, will have any impact. The government is banking on ramping up its vaccination campaign.

After a slow start, Covid vaccines are increasing rapidly in France, with more doses arriving and the opening of large vaccination centres.

More than 9.3 million people received a first dose on Monday, and the short-term goal is to inject 400,000 people daily.

A large vaccination centre opens Tuesday at the Stade de France stadium, where some 10,000 people a week will receive jabs.

This week, France should start producing the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines at five sites this week, and is awaiting a delivery of 600,000 doses of the one-jab Johnson & Johnson vaccine later this month.

(with wires)