France will go back into a nationwide lockdown on Friday, president Emmanuel Macron has announced.
Under the rules, schools will stay open but non-essential businesses will have to close, including bars and restaurants.
Travel between regions will be banned and people will need to fill out a form to justify leaving their home. Addressing the nation on Wednesday, Mr Macron said that France must now ‘apply the brakes brutality’ to avoid being ‘submerged by the acceleration of the epidemic’.
‘Like in the spring, you will be able to leave your house only to work, for a medical appointment, to provide assistance to a relative, to shop for essential goods or to get some air near your house,’ the president said.
Daily coronavirus deaths in France are at the highest level since April. The country is reporting more than 350 new cases per 100,000 people each week, and nearly 18% of its tests are now coming back positive.
Mr Macron said the virus is circulating ‘at a speed that even the most pessimistic forecasts had not anticipated’. He acknowledged the measures would hit the economy hard but said the country was at risk of being ‘overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first’. He said: ‘If we do not put a brutal brake on contamination today, our hospitals will quickly become overwhelmed.
‘We will never let hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens die.. These are not our values. It is not in our interest either.’
The new measures largely echo restrictions imposed in March. Citizens will be allocated one hour for exercise and are only be permitted to travel for work if their employer deemed it impossible for them to work from home. However, schools will remain open and visits to care homes and retirement homes will be allowed.
The lockdown will last until December 1 and will be reviewed every two weeks from there. The president said he retained ‘hope that families will be able to be reunited for Christmas’. ‘Every fortnight, we will take stock of the evolution of the epidemic,’ Mr Macron said.
‘We will decide, if necessary, on additional measures and we will then assess whether we can alleviate certain constraints. ‘If within two weeks we are in control the situation, we can then reassess things and hope to open some businesses, especially in this very important period before the Christmas holidays.’ Some two thirds of France, including Paris, have already been placed under a night-time curfew, but officials say this has not been enough to stop the virus. The announcement comes after Germany announced a four-week shutdown to combat the second wave of coronavirus. Restaurants, bars, cinemas, theatres and other leisure facilities have been ordered to close, though schools and shops will remain open. Pressure is growing on Boris Johnson to bring in a second lockdown as fears grow that the second wave will kill more people than the first.