New France curfew to include New Year’s Eve, PM announces

8pm-6am curfew to begin next Tuesday as coronavirus cases start to rise again

French prime minister Jean Castex announcing the new Covid-19 restrictions.  “We’ve reached a sort of plateau,” he said. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

French prime minister Jean Castex announcing the new Covid-19 restrictions. “We’ve reached a sort of plateau,” he said. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images

 

France will enforce an 8pm-6am curfew starting next Tuesday, December 15th, including on New Year’s Eve. An exception will be made for Christmas Eve only, prime minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday.

Cinemas, theatres and museums, which were to have reopened on December 15th, will remain closed for at least three more weeks.

Mr Castex said France’s second lockdown, which began in late October, had reduced the number of new Covid-19 cases from 50,000 to 11,000 per day.

But figures began to rise again last week, with 14,595 positive cases recorded on Wednesday, the highest rate since November 25th.

“We’ve reached a sort of plateau,” Mr Castex said. “The number of new infections is no longer decreasing. It has been increasing slightly for several days. We are far from winning the fight.”

Health minister Olivier Véran dramatised the situation by stating that “One new French person is hospitalised every minute because of Covid. A new patient is put in an intensive care unit every seven minutes.” The dynamic is such that no improvement can be expected for the next two weeks.

Small comfort

The fact that France is faring better than its European neighbours offered small comfort. “Whereas France was one of the European countries worst hit by the epidemic at the end of October, the situation has reversed since,” Mr Castex said. “It is probably in France that the situation has evolved most favourably over the last six weeks. We have better controlled the epidemic than our European neighbours.”

In France, there are 107 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 150 in Germany, 250 in Italy and 300 in Switzerland, health minister Olivier Véran said.

From December 15th, the French will be allowed to travel between regions, and will no longer be required to carry forms justifying their presence outside, except during the new 8pm-6am curfew.

Interior minister Gérald Darmanin said police have carried out 2.9 million checks during the second lockdown and 285,000 people have been fined €135.

Mr Castex said he regretted the necessity of the 8pm curfew on New Year’s Eve, “a festive moment, but which concentrates all the elements of a jump [in infections]”.

The prime minister said the government “wants to limit opportunities for people to get together as much as possible, because it is more difficult to wear a mask and keep one’s distance when one is eating and drinking. That is why we continue to keep bars and restaurants closed.”

Christmas Eve

According to the same logic, Mr Castex said, the country ought to remain under lockdown for the evening of December 24th, when French families have their Christmas meal.

“But Christmas occupies a special place, so we authorise people to go out on the evening of the 24th, but there should not be more than six adults in any one place.”

Mr Castex said he also understands how disappointing is the continued closure of cinemas, theatres, museums, circuses and casinos. “Even if establishments follow all the rules, we must prevent increasing the size of groups. I know how much the cultural sector was counting on the reopening. Everything was ready for the curtains to rise and the screens to light up.”

The infection rate varies a great deal according to regions. Incidence is 200 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the east, between the Vosges and Ardennes mountains. It is also high in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Savoie and Haute-Savoie, the Doubs, Jura and Hautes-Pyrénées departments. Infection rates are below 50 per 100,000 in the Finistère department of Brittany.

Mr Véran suggested the cold spell in eastern France may explain the difference.