France heads back into lockdown amid surge of Covid-19 cases

French President Macron under pressure to lock down as Covid-19 hospitalizations soar

French President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday that French schools would close next week and a limited lockdown in place in Paris and other regions would be extended to the whole country to battle soaring Covid-19 cases.

Asked if Macron's address amounted to an admission he had got the strategy wrong, government spokesman Gabriel Attal told a news briefing earlier: "There had been successes and there have probably been mistakes".

The restrictions, which have already been in place in several regions of France, will come into place on Saturday, Mr Macron said on Wednesday.

The new restrictions are to cover the whole of mainland France and Corsica for four weeks, with schools and childcare closing, in an attempt to stem a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

At the end of January, the 43-year-old president bucked the European trend and went against the recommendation of his scientific advisers by deciding that France would not enter a third lockdown.

The new variant first detected in the United Kingdom has created an "epidemic within an epidemic" and it is more contagious and deadly, he said.

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. Under the restrictions, all municipalities move to the Red Phase of the state's COVID-19 plan, under which only essential businesses and facilities such as grocery stores, banks, critical industries, and schools, may remain open for on-premises operation.

"It is the best solution to slow down the virus", Mr Macron said, adding that France had succeeded in keeping its schools open for longer during the pandemic than many neighbours.

France added more than 30,000 new infections on Tuesday, taking the daily average to 38,902 - a figure which has jumped by more than 50 per cent in a fortnight.

COVID:19 - Would you like to know the origins of the pandemic?
And the report said the possibility that the coronavirus originated from a leak at a laboratory was "extremely unlikely". It also pointed out that "antibodies to bat coronavirus proteins have been found in humans with close contact to bats".

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care has breached 5,000, exceeding the peak hit during a six-week lockdown late previous year. This is now expected to last until May 2, though it will be less restrictive than the first full lockdown at this time a year ago.

The set-back for France, the euro zone's second-largest economy, may also dampen Europe's hopes of bouncing back swiftly from the pandemic, in the way that the USA and Chinese economies are doing.

Today's news comes as France has seen slow rollout of Covid vaccinations and as the country is now one of the hardest hit in Europe.

Only 12 per cent of the population has received a first dose, leaving the vast majority of French citizens still vulnerable to the disease.

He said people in their sixties would be eligible for a shot from mid-April, and those in their fifties a month later.

'Until we are massively vaccinated, wherever the situation is serious, we must confine ourselves, ' the letter said.

"We can see a way out of this crisis", Macron said.

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