PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday ordered France its third national lockdown and said schools will close for three weeks as he seeks to fend off a third wave of Covid-19 infections that threaten to overwhelm hospitals.
With the death toll approaching 100,000, intensive care units in the hardest-hit areas to the point of rupture and the vaccine rollout slower than expected, Macron has been forced to abandon his goal of keeping the country open for protect the economy.
“We will lose control if we do not move now,” the president said in a televised address to the nation.
His announcement means that movement restrictions already in place for more than a week in Paris, and parts of the north and south, will now apply to the whole country for at least a month, starting on Saturday. .
Departing from his promise to protect education from the pandemic, Macron said schools would close for three weeks after this weekend.
Macron, 43, has sought to avoid a third large-scale lockdown since the start of the year, betting that if he could get France out of the pandemic without locking the country again, he would give the economy a chance to recover from last year. slump.
But the former investment banker’s options narrowed as more contagious strains of the coronavirus swept across France and much of Europe.
For schoolchildren after this weekend, distance learning will take place for a week, after which all schools go on vacation for two weeks. Subsequently, nursery and primary school students will return to school while middle and high school students will continue distance learning for an additional week.
“This is the best solution to slow the virus,” Macron said, adding that France had managed to keep its schools open longer during the pandemic than many neighbors.
New daily infections in France have doubled since February to nearly 40,000. The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has exceeded 5,000, surpassing the peak reached during a six-week lockdown at the end of Last year.
Bed capacity in intensive care units will be increased to 10,000, Macron said.
The new restrictions risk slowing the pace of recovery in the euro area’s second-largest economy after last year’s slump.
Macron said the vaccine rollout needed to be accelerated. It didn’t find its way until three months later, with just 12 percent of the population vaccinated.