France heads into a 3rd COVID-19 lockdown

2021-04-02 12:04:56

French President Emmanuel Macron is seen on a screen as he addresses the nation about the state of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak as a fast-spreading third wave of COVID-19 infections threatens to over-run hospitals in France, March 31, 2021. [Photo/Agencies] PARIS-President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday ordered France into its third national lockdown and said schools would close for three weeks as he sought to push back a third wave of COVID-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals. With the death toll in the country nearing 100,000, intensive care units in the hardest-hit regions at breaking point and a slower-than-planned vaccine roll out, Macron was forced to abandon his goal of keeping the country open to protect the economy. "We will lose control if we do not move now," the president said in a televised address. His announcement means movement restrictions already in place for more than a week in Paris, and some northern and southern regions, will now apply to the whole country for at least a month, starting from Saturday. A woman walks on the Pont de Bir-Hakeim bridge during a sunny afternoon, amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Paris, France April 1, 2021. [Photo/Agencies] Under these restrictions, people are allowed to go outside for leisure, but within a 10-kilometer radius from their homes-and without socializing. Departing from his pledge to safeguard education from the pandemic, Macron said schools will close for three weeks after this weekend. Macron had sought to avoid a third large-scale lockdown since the start of the year. But the former investment banker's options narrowed as more contagious strains of the coronavirus swept across France and much of Europe. For schoolchildren after this weekend, learning will be done remotely for a week, after which schools go on a two-week holiday, which for most of the country will be earlier than scheduled. "It is the best solution to slow down the virus," Macron said, adding France had succeeded in keeping its schools open for longer during the pandemic than many neighbors. Intensive care strains Daily infections in France have doubled since February to average nearly 40,000. The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care has breached 5,000, exceeding the peak hit during a six-week-long lockdown late last year. France's new lockdown underlines the cost of the European Union's slow roll out of COVID-19 vaccines. Neighboring Britain, which finalized its divorce with the bloc on Jan 1, has inoculated nearly half its population against the coronavirus and is reopening its economy just as France hunkers down once again. Macron said the vaccine campaign needed to be accelerated. Mired early in red tape and slowed by supply shortages, it is only now finding its stride three months in, with just 12 percent of the population inoculated. He said France was sticking by its target to vaccinate all those above the age of 18 who want to be vaccinated by the end of the summer. All those over 60 would be eligible from April 16. Agencies via Xinhua