French President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday a new lockdown aimed at halting an alarming acceleration of COVID-19 cases, to take effect from Thursday night until “at least December 1.”
Bars, restaurants and non-essential businesses will be forced to close, but unlike during the two-month lockdown imposed last spring, students will continue to go to school, Macron said during a televised address.
Factories and farms will also be allowed to operate, Macron said, and some public services will function, to limit the economic damage that would come from shutting down the country completely.
“The virus is being transmitted across France at a speed that even the most pessimistic did not predict,” he said.
“Like last spring, you will be able to leave your home only for work, for a doctor’s visit, to help a relative, do essential shopping or go out shortly for air,” Macron said.
Written statements justifying being outside will be required, he said, suggesting that fines will again be issued for offenders.
“If in two weeks, we have the situation under better control, we will be able to re-evaluate things and hopefully open some businesses, in particular for the Christmas holiday,” he said.
“I hope we’ll be able to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with family,” he said.
Like other European countries, France has seen a surge in coronavirus cases that could soon overwhelm the country’s hospitals.
More than 3,000 intensive care beds now hold Covid-19 patients, a number that Macron said is poised to reach around 9,000 in November.
He said France would scramble to increase the number of available intensive care beds to 10,000, up from around 5,800 currently.