French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a new nationwide lockdown from Friday to stem a surge in coronavirus patients in French hospitals, warning that the second wave of the virus is “likely to be deadlier than the first”.
“We have been overwhelmed by the rapid acceleration of Covid-19,” Macron announced on Wednesday in a prime-time televised address, stressing that “all French regions are now in high alert”.
The French president said a nationwide lockdown would be enforced until December 1, though schools and crèches will remain open.
Health officials recorded 523 virus-related deaths in 24 hours on Tuesday, the highest daily tally since April, bringing the country’s overall death toll to 35,541, the third-highest toll in Europe after Britain and Italy.
In his address, Macron said lockdown measures would be eased once new daily infections drop below the 5,000-mark.
Many French doctors had been calling for a new nationwide lockdown, noting that 58 percent of the country’s intensive care units are now occupied by Covid-19 patients and medical staff are under increasing strain.
“The government didn’t take into account what the first wave was and didn’t learn all its lessons,” Frederic Valletoux, president of the French Hospital Federation, said Wednesday on France Inter radio.
He called for a full, month-long lockdown, saying “this wave will be much more devastating for the hospital system. Hospitals won’t manage if we don’t take drastic measures.”
Some French doctors, nurses with Covid-19 asked to work as country’s cases rise
The French government had been loath to impose a new lockdown that will pummel the economy even harder, and business chiefs have warned a total shutdown would force another wave of layoffs and bankruptcies.
Economists warn that a full lockdown could impact Europe more broadly if other European countries hit hard by rising infections then follow France’s lead.
Earlier on Wednesday, Germany announced a four-week shutdown of restaurants, bars and leisure facilities in a bid to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, following similar measures in Italy and Spain.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)