PARIS – The French government’s decision to impose a curfew on nearly a third of the population has sparked cries of alarm and anger in the country’s capital.
“For us, it’s catastrophic,” said Alain Fontaine, owner of the “Le Mesturet” bistro about the measures to fight Covid announced Wednesday evening. “It’s difficult financially and psychologically… We can’t survive. “
Georges de la Rocherochard, who runs the ‘Vieux Paris d’Arcole’ restaurant in central Paris with his wife Odette, said the new curfew could also mean the end of their business. At the very least, he said, the restrictions associated with the drop in tourists will result in the dismissal of all eight of his staff.
“For 25 years we have been running our restaurant,” he told NBC News Thursday. “We’re all going to crash with this curfew. “
Hospitalizations and the number of intensive care patients have skyrocketed over the past ten days. In Paris, intensive care units could reach 90% of their capacity next week, officials say
In a nationally televised interview on Wednesday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the curfew starting on Saturday evening and lasting at least four weeks would keep millions of city dwellers confined to their homes from 9 p.m. to 6 am.
Private gatherings of more than six people will also be limited in Paris and eight other major cities, affecting nearly a third of the country’s 67 million people.
Some 12,000 police will also be deployed to apply the new measures.
” We need to act. We must stop the spread of the virus, “Macron said while stressing that France still had not” lost control “of the virus while it was in a” worrying situation “.
The new strategy, which follows weeks of rising coronavirus cases, is the government’s most robust attempt to tackle the pandemic since it eased lockdown rules after the crisis peaked last spring .
Since then, the French government has partnered with other European leaders to try to chart a common ground that will allow it to stop the spread of the disease while preserving the economy.
The International Monetary Fund predicted in June that the French economy could contract by nearly 10% in 2020.
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However, Macron said a second full nationwide lockdown would be “disproportionate”.
Under the new rules, businesses and schools can remain open during the day. But those who break the rules without special permission would be fined up to 135 euros ($ 160).
Companies affected by the new rules would also be eligible for state aid, the president said.
But France’s second wave isn’t exactly like the first – both in terms of the dynamics of the disease’s effect on the population and the public response.
New cases of the disease have risen sharply in recent weeks, regularly reaching more than 20,000 new cases a day – levels well above those seen at the height of the crisis in the spring.
But hospitalizations and deaths were initially lagging behind, confusing doctors and policymakers.
The French public has also become increasingly impatient, like others around the world, suffering from “Covid fatigue”.
“This delusional curfew may be the last straw that will break the back of the camel in anger,” French academic René Chiche wrote on Twitter Thursday, decrying the new rules. Others have called for exemptions for theaters, cinemas and entertainment.
French opposition politicians have also openly criticized the escalation of lockdown measures, with some businesses in southern France remaining open in defiance of the rules, they say to protect livelihoods.
Elsewhere in Europe, countries are closing schools and closing bars, as authorities face the nightmarish scenario of a Covid resurgence during the winter.
Most European governments relaxed lockdown measures over the summer to start reviving economies battered by the first wave of the pandemic, but now countries like Germany, the Netherlands and the UK face deadly outbreaks.
Even Pope Francis was subject to new coronavirus rules this week regarding social distancing at the Vatican, while Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo worried fans when he tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.
In the United States, with the highest number of confirmed infections in the world, 22 states so far in October have set records for an increase in new cases. But deaths are on the decline and have averaged 700 a day over the past week.
Matt Bradley and Nancy Ing reported from Paris. Matthew Mulligan and Adela Suliman reported from London.
Reuters contributed to this report.