Emmanuel Macron announces strict new lockdown measures in televised address

French president Emmanuel Macron announced stricter measures for at least one month to halt an explosion of Covid-19 hospital admissions in a national address on Wednesday. 

France will widen lockdown measures that have been in place for the Paris region and some other regions to the entire country from Saturday.

The new measures will be in place for a least one month.

“We will lose control if we do not move now,” he said in a televised address. 

Schools will move to online learning, and the furlough scheme will be extended for those who need it. 

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo demanded the closure of schools in the capital on Wednesday, echoing growing calls for closures nationwide.

Figures from hospitals across the country show the third wave of coronavirus, fuelled by the more infectious British variant, could be much worse than the previous ones.

Government sources told French TV BFM the president ahead of his announcement that he favoured plans to close schools for four weeks, with remote learning put in place for a week followed by extended school holidays.

Under current lockdown measures in place in Paris, northern France and the southeast, all but essential shops are closed and people can go outside for an unlimited amount of time within a 10 km radius.

“We are slowing down the epidemic as much as we can, taking into account local situations, national dynamics,” said Gabriel Attal, the government’s spokesperson, after a weekly government meeting on the health crisis.

“But the key factor remains the situation of our hospitals… The triage of the sick is not an option, it never has been and it never will be,” he added in response to growing concerns hospitals in Paris will soon have to choose which patients to treat and let others die.

Internal projections by the Paris public hospitals authority suggest that intensive care units in the region of 12 million people may soon have to find space for more critically ill patients than ever, according to AP.

“We have lost control of the epidemic. The virus is winning,” said Patrick Bouet, head of the French medical association, in an open letter. 

“Mr President, our fellow citizens, worried every day about themselves and their families, our caregivers exhausted by a merciless fight, can no longer wait. I solemnly ask you to reinforce without delay the sanitary measures… we must lockdown.”

France has long prided itself in being one of the countries which has managed to keep children in school the longest during the pandemic, boosting education and reducing social inequality.

But Ms Hidalgo said around 20,000 pupils are not in school in Paris because they are sick or classes are cancelled.

Young people aged 15 to 19 have an infection rate of 850 for 100,000 people in Paris, she added.

With only 12 per cent of French people having received a first dose of the vaccine, it could take another full year to vaccinate all adults in the country despite the campaign speeding up, according to the CovidTracker website.

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