France to begin new month-long lockdown in 16 regions

Friday, March 19

France is to begin a month-long limited lockdown for Paris and 15 other regions starting midnight on Friday.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the new restrictions after a spike in the number of people in intensive care units.

All non-essential businesses will close and movement outside will be restricted in the affected regions, schools will stay open and outdoor exercise allowed up to 10 kilometres (6 miles) from home.

The progression of the Covid-19 epidemic in France is clearly accelerating, Castex said. "More and more this is looking like a third wave," the French Prime Minister told a news conference on Thursday.

The announcement falls on the week of the one-year anniversary of France’s first nationwide lockdown. President Emmanuel Macron made the announcement on March 16 and the lockdown went into effect at midday on March 17, 2020, and ended 55 days later on May 10. 

Over 4.11 million people have been infected by the virus since the start of the outbreak.

President Macron had strongly argued against a third national lockdown, preferring instead to enforce local restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex (L) and French Health Minister Olivier Veran at a joint press conference on March 18. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

"Let's be clear, we're in a third wave mostly down to the rise of this famous British variant," Macron said late Wednesday after a day of talks with medical staff and local mayors in the Paris region. "The situation is critical. It's going to be very hard until mid-April." 

National figures for daily infections had remained steady at around 20,000 a day in February, but new cases have risen 20 percent in the last week alone.

On Thursday, around 38,000 new infections were reported – the highest level in four months.

Paris hospitals have been overwhelmed by new admissions of the virus and have begun transferring patients to other regions.

More than 91,000 people have died in France from the disease, according to an official count.

Newsday and Agencies