France imposes four-week national lockdown to combat coronavirus

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is expected to impose a new four-week national lockdown to halt the spread of Covid-19, according to French media.

The announcement would follow record numbers of new cases in France that have put pressure on hospitals, and a startling rise in coronavirus deaths.

Macron is due to make a televised address on Wednesday evening after holding a second emergency meeting with government ministers. The prime minister, Jean Castex, also met union leaders and opposition parties to justify the need for stricter measures.

Large swathes of France, including Paris, have been placed under a night-time curfew, but officials say this has not been enough to stop the virus.

There had been speculation the government would introduce an earlier curfew or partial lockdowns in areas worst hit by Covid-19. However, on Tuesday evening it was widely reported that Macron would announce a four-week national confinement similar to the two-month lockdown imposed in March and April.

The details were a matter of speculation but it was suggested all bars and restaurants across the country would be required to close. It was not clear if all shops would be allowed to remain open or only those selling essential goods, as during the spring lockdown.

BFMTV reported official sources had confirmed that schools and certain public services would remain open, but other reports suggested secondary and high schools would close.

The new restrictions are aimed at halting a dramatic spike in coronavirus infections in France over the last week. Tuesday’s figures from Santé Publique France, the public health authority, reported 33,417 new confirmed Covid-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, down from the record 52,010 reported on Saturday.

The number of patients in intensive care with coronavirus rose by 148 to 2,918 and there were an additional 288 deaths attributed to the virus in the previous 24 hours. There were an additional 235 deaths in France’s care and nursing homes in the previous week.

On Monday, the president of France’s scientific committee advising the government, Jean-François Delfraissy, told RTL radio he believed the number of new Covid-19 cases could be as high as 100,000 and that his committee was surprised at the “brutality” of the second wave.

“We are in a difficult, even critical, situation. We foresaw a second wave but we are surprised ourselves by the brutality of what has happened over the last 10 days. The second wave will probably be worse than the first,” Delfraissy said.

He added: “Many people still haven’t realised what is waiting for us. This wave is invading Europe … it will last several weeks, even one or two months.”

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