French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered that a third of the French population be subject to a nighttime curfew to deal with a second wave of coronavirus, saying now is not the time for conviviality.
COVID-19 was spreading at parties and private gatherings, the president said on Wednesday, and action was needed in Paris and eight other major French cities to slow infection rates or risk overwhelming hospitals.
Macron specified that the curfews were to temporarily interrupt “the parties, the moments of conviviality where there are 50 or 60 people, the festive evenings because, unfortunately, these are vectors of the acceleration of the disease”.
Macron announced the curfews, which will take effect from Saturday and run every evening from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., hours after the government declared a new state of emergency.
The curfew will last for the first four weeks, but Macron says the government will seek a two-week extension in parliament, meaning the measures will be in place until December 1.
“It means we won’t go to a restaurant after 9 pm, we won’t go to a friend’s house, we won’t go out to party,” the president said.
France, like other European countries, is wondering how to slow down the virus and ease the pressure on a again strained health system while keeping its economy of 2.3 trillion euros (A3.78 billion euros). dollars) open and protecting jobs.
On Wednesday, it reported 22,591 new cases, the third time in six days the daily COVID tally has passed the 20,000 threshold.
The virus has killed more than 32,000 people in France.
The curfew applies to the Paris region, Marseille, Toulouse, Grenoble, Montpellier, Rouen, Lyon, Saint-Étienne and Lille. The cities have a combined population of around 20 million people.
Macron said France faces a worrying situation.
“We need to adopt more stringent measures in order to fully restore control,” the president continued.
Essential travel during curfew would still be allowed, he said. There would be no restrictions on public transport, and people could still move between regions without restrictions.
Anyone who breaks the curfews will be fined 135 euros.
Macron said the goal was to reduce the current rate of 20,000 new cases per day to around 3,000 and significantly reduce the burden on intensive care units in hospitals.
The French government previously declared a state of emergency in March, as hospitalizations caused by the pandemic were nearing their peak.
This time around, the authorities used additional powers to lock France away except for essential jobs, buying food or getting an hour of daily exercise.
Another national lockdown was not on the cards, Macron said.
“We will get out of this if we stay united,” the president said.
But the move is likely to anger the already battered French hotel industry, reeling from the three-month spring jail term and a more recent government-ordered closure of bars in virus outbreaks.
Australian Associated Press