Children in France aged six and over will have to wear face masks in the classroom to keep schools open, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on the eve of a second nationwide lockdown.
Speaking before the National Assembly supported the new restrictions by 399 votes to 27, Castex said compulsory use of masks was extended to elementary school students on the advice of public health officials. Until now, only children over 11 had to wear masks at school.
France enters a new one-month national lockdown from midnight Thursday in an attempt to protect the health service, where 60% of intensive care beds are currently occupied by Covid patients, or double the proportion of 15 days ago.
“There is no other solution,” the Prime Minister said of the measures announced by President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday evening. “We will have to manage a higher peak of hospitalization in November than in April. The virus is accelerating, we must also speed up. “
France’s decision should be followed on Friday in Belgium, where the infection rate is the worst in Europe.
The 27 EU heads of state and government will seek to coordinate measures to fight the virus and address capacity issues in intensive care units at a summit via video conference on Thursday evening.
In Sweden, which avoided lockdowns, the health agency decided to tighten pandemic advice for three regions, including Stockholm and Gothenburg, saying infection rates were rising sharply. He advised residents to avoid indoor environments, such as shops and gyms. The health agency said there were 2,820 new cases of the coronavirus in Sweden on Thursday, the highest since the start of the pandemic and the third record in days.
France’s lockdown will once again mean residents will once again have to swear a declaration to leave their homes, and all non-essential businesses, including bars and restaurants, will be closed. Private gatherings will be banned, but people will have time to return home after the All Saints holiday this weekend. Universities will be giving courses online.
Unlike the spring lockdown, utilities and schools will remain open. Castex said people driving their children to school would need a certificate and “in accordance with the notice sent to us yesterday by the High Council for Public Health, the wearing of masks will be extended to schoolchildren in the primary from six years old.
“Like all our major public services, national education must continue to function,” he declared. “Nurseries, schools, colleges and high schools will remain open. The same goes for the extracurricular sector. I know the teaching staff and all the educational staff will be there … [From Monday] the health protocol will be adapted and reinforced to ensure the protection of all: children, teachers, parents of pupils. “
The list of essential stores allowed to open will include those that sell food, newspapers and stationery. Garages, computer repair shops, opticians and funeral homes will also be exempt from the closure.
In the Reichstag, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also defended her government’s tough new stop measures announced on Wednesday, saying propaganda and conspiracy theories were undermining the fight against the pandemic. While being mocked by members of the far-right AfD party, Merkel said: “Let me be clear: lies and disinformation, conspiracy and hatred not only harm democratic debate but also the fight against the coronavirus.”
Merkel agreed with the 16 leaders of the German state in a video conference on Wednesday to close restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters, gymnasiums and public swimming pools among other recreational facilities for the month of November in order to ” try to stop the outbreak of infections. Schools, nurseries, shops and other essential businesses would remain open and there would be no restrictions on who leaves their homes, unlike more hard-hit countries like France and Spain.
Merkel said new cases doubled last week and intensive care units were quickly approaching capacity. “The measures we take are appropriate, necessary and proportionate,” she said. “At the start of the cold period of the year we find ourselves in a dire situation… Winter will be hard – four long difficult months – but it will end.