France will extend its COVID-19 curfew to eight other departments, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Saturday, citing a “tough and necessary” response as some opposed restrictions in several cities.
France has stepped up its anti-virus restrictions in the face of rising cases and imposed a post-New Year curfew from 6 p.m. (5 p.m. GMT) on 15 of its 101 departments, with the rest under lockdown in 20 hours.
These 15 are believed to be the ones where the virus is spreading the most in a country which has so far experienced some 67,000 deaths in some 2.7 million cases and whose reproduction rate is increasing.
The new departments likely to be subject to an early curfew are located mainly in the east of the country, in particular Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin and Côte d’Or, as well as that of the center of Cher.
Castex highlighted the southern port of Marseille, France’s second largest city, where local politicians of all stripes have voiced opposition to the extension of the partial lockdown, questioning its effectiveness.
“In reality, we apply in Marseille the same criteria that we apply elsewhere,” said Castex, confirming that the previous lockdown would be extended to eight departments including Bouches-du-Rhône, which includes Marseille.
“Everyone is aware that the epidemic is not weakening or, on the contrary, it is increasing in some areas,” Castex said.
Castex also defended the government’s vaccine deployment strategy, criticized in some quarters for its slow start.
“The objective is to go quickly, (but) to do so in absolutely irreproachable security conditions. ”
Opinion polls show that around half of the French population is skeptical of the coup – their opposition is significantly higher than in neighboring countries.
Castex underlined what he called the “credibility” of the vaccine strategy, adding “that it must succeed because that is what will allow us to find a way out of this serious and worsening health crisis”.
The Minister of Health, Olivier Veran, stressed that France will accelerate the pace of vaccinations from next week.
© 2021 AFP
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