France rules out new lockdown and curfew changes

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FILE PHOTO: French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal, wearing a protective mask, leaves after the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 16, 2020. REUTERS / Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) – France was not currently planning local lockdown measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, the government spokesperson said on Wednesday, although he dampened hopes of a quick reopening cultural attractions and said curfews could be tightened.

“The speed at which the virus is circulating does not justify the introduction of local lockdown measures,” Gabriel Attal told BFM TV.

Attal said, however, that the government is closely monitoring some 20 French departments where cases are growing at a faster rate and confirmed that curfews could be advanced at 6pm instead of 8pm in some areas if necessary.

France has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Western Europe and the fifth in the world, and has already put in place two national lockdowns.

Those measures were relaxed in mid-December, but restaurants and bars are banned at the moment and it is not clear when they could reopen, even though a January 20 was initially announced as the target date.

Attal said cinemas and concert halls are unlikely to reopen on January 7. Cultural institutions in France had hoped to be able to reopen their doors at Christmas, although the government backtracked on the idea before the holiday. season.

Attal admitted that France had a slower start to its COVID vaccination campaign than other European countries, with less than 200 doses administered since Sunday compared to tens of thousands elsewhere.

But he dismissed criticism of the French approach, saying there was no shortage of vaccines, that the slow ramp-up was deliberate and that France would meet the goal of vaccinating one million people by February.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, written by Sarah White; Edited by Alison Williams and David Gregorio

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