French government imposes limited lockdown in Paris amid COVID-19 variant surge

Ruben Fields
March 19, 2021

There was 35,000 new cases reported on Thursday, with more Covid patients in hospitals across Paris than at the peak of the second wave.

France's prime minister on Thursday imposed a month-long lockdown on Paris and several other regions after a faltering vaccine rollout and spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants forced President Emmanuel Macron to shift course.

His prime minister, Jean Castex, said France was in the grip of a third wave, with the virulent variant first detected in Britain now accounting for some 75% of cases.

The lockdown in Paris is also set to be imposed on the Hauts-de-France region of northeast France including the Alpes-Maritimes on the Mediterranean, as well as Seine-Maritime and the Eure in the north.

Schools in these departments will remain open while rules in places of worship remain unchanged, Castex said the trip will be overseen but under more flexible rules during March and November.

The Paris region has an infection rate of 446 out of 100,000 inhabitants - up more than 23 per cent in a week - Castex said, and intensive care units are close to saturation.

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The only authorized out-of-home trips will be to go to work when it can not be done remotely, for a medical emergency, to provide assistance, to go shopping, or for outdoor exercise within a 10-km radius from home. Travel out of the worst-hit areas will not permitted without a compelling reason.

Outdoor activity will however be curbed as the French PM warned, "go outdoors, but not to party with friends".

French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Tuesday vowed he would be vaccinated "very quickly" with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to give the public confidence in the jab if it is ruled as safe by the European Union medicines agency.

The night time curfew - now in effect from 6 pm - will be extended to 7 pm when the new measures are implemented, reported CNN.

"I also know the deep wish of many of you to enjoy the outdoors, since the crisis has gone on for one year and Spring is coming", Castex said.

The health ministry said there were 4,239 patients in intensive care units for COVID-19, up by 20 over 24 hours and setting a almost four-month high.

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