Almost exactly one year after France introduced its first coronavirus lockdown, French Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced new confinement measures to combat a fresh surge of Covid-19 cases.
From midnight on Friday, residents of 16 departments will only be allowed to leave home under specific circumstances, though the restrictive measures are less strict than the first lockdown last March.
The restrictions will be introduced in Paris and its surrounding Ile-de-France region, as well as in Hauts-de-France and parts of Normandy in the north of the country.
Only essential shops will remain open, inter-regional travel is banned, and anyone travelling more than 10km from home or in the evenings will need to fill out a form explaining the purpose of their trip. Schools will remain open and outdoor activities are permitted.
A nationwide curfew has already been in place between 6pm and 6am every day for the last two months, which remains in place, though this has not managed to slow the spread of the disease.
Mr Castex described the new measures as “balanced and necessary”, adding, “they will put a break on the virus without constraining us too much”.
France has seen new coronavirus infections surge since early December, rising from around 10,000 per day to more than 20,000 average daily cases.
A further 34,998 new cases were recorded on Thursday, roughly seven-times that of the UK.
The decision to target certain areas with new restrictions come after infection rates spiked in the north of France, with intensive care units close to reaching full capacity in the Paris region.
“The localised strategy remains the good strategy,” government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said ahead of Mr Castex’s announcement.
“It enables to limit precisely and proportionally the expansion of the virus.”
Speaking after a visit to the Hospital of Poissy and Saint-Germain-en-Laye in Ile-de-France on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron blamed the third major coronavirus wave on “the famous British variant”, which accounts for around 73 per cent of all new cases in France.
“The situation is critical,” he said. “It’s going to be very hard until mid-April.”