French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday evening that France will be closed nationwide for the second time on Friday in response to recent peaks in new coronavirus cases.
Macron said during a television address translated into English by France 24 that the new lockdown was necessary because the country had been “overwhelmed by a second wave”. The lockdown is expected to last until December, but could be extended or shortened depending on what the data reflect in the coming weeks, he said.
France introduced its first lockdown in mid-March and began lifting restrictions two months later. While the country apparently flattened its virus curve during the summer months, the number of new cases began to rise in August. In recent days, public health officials have reported a daily rise in cases by tens of thousands, with more than 36,000 new cases reported on Wednesday alone.
Many European countries began to report record numbers of new infections at the beginning of autumn. On Wednesday, the European Commission called on its Member States to “work closely together” and warned that “no Member State will emerge safely from this pandemic until all do so”.
Earlier on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a four-week partial lockdown due to rising case numbers in the country. Spain and Italy also imposed lockdown bans last week in response to their own case numbers.
In a series of postings on Twitter, Macron paid tribute to the other European countries that are pursuing strict lockdown approaches due to the rising case numbers on the continent.
“Nevertheless, we are all at the same point: overwhelmed by a second wave, which we now know will be more difficult and deadly than the first,” he wrote.
Under France’s new lockdown, children will still be able to go to school, pensioner communities will continue to receive visitors, and citizens will be able to move around and go to work as needed, even if distance working is encouraged, Macron said. Citizens will be discouraged from traveling from one region of the country to another, and foreign borders will remain largely closed, with exceptions – and rapid verification of COVID-19 availability – for some frequent European travelers, he said.
Further details on the blocking rules and exceptions will be announced on Thursday, Macron said.
Anticipating the frustrations that could arise from the announcement of the lockdown, Macron said he “takes full responsibility” for the decision and that government and health officials would monitor the evolving situation to allow companies to continue operations as far and as safely as possible. “The economy – it must not come to a standstill,” he said.
“We were all surprised, amazed at the speed at which this virus has spread,” Macron said. “I know that it can be tiring and that it may break your heart. But these difficult times demand that we all show our resilience and solidarity”.
By Wednesday, more than 1.2 million cases had been reported in France, according to the country’s health database. France reported more than 270,000 new infections last week, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, and ranks fifth in the world in terms of the number of infections confirmed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Macron said the country has reached 58 percent capacity in its intensive care units, which could be almost fully utilized by mid-November.
“The virus is circulating in France at a speed that even the most pessimistic forecasts had not anticipated,” Macron told Twitter. “Unlike the first wave, all regions are now at the alert threshold.
Tekk.tv contacted Public Health France for comments, but did not receive a response in time for publication.