France enters second Covid-19 lockdown as country’s cases surge

France entered its second lockdown Friday in a bid to stem the resurgent coronavirus pandemic with residents only allowed to leave their homes for food shopping, medical appointments, pressing family reasons and to commute to work when their jobs cannot be done from home.

France’s 65 million people were largely confined to their homes from Friday amid a surge in Covid-19 cases that has threatened to overwhelm French hospitals.

The nationwide lockdown will be initially enforced until December 1, though health experts have warned a longer clampdown may be necessary.

Detailing the new restrictions at a press conference Thursday evening, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said people will be allowed outside for just one hour of exercise per day and no farther than one kilometre from their homes.

For every outing, they will have to carry a document justifying their presence outside or risk a fine of €135.

Travel within France, including to holiday homes, will be prohibited, though borders with EU countries will remain open, the prime minister said. Visits to friends and family are also banned.

Stocking up

On Thursday, millions of people raced to buy supplies ahead of the new lockdown, with essentials like pasta and toilet paper in high demand, as well as printer ink and yoga mats.

“I’m stocking up, since we don’t know when this will end,” said Catherine Debeaupuis, shopping at an electronics retailer in central Paris.

Factories and building sites will remain open, as will crèches, or childcare centres, and schools.

Under the new rules, French schools will require all students aged six and over to wear face masks in class, Castex said.

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Until now masks were mandatory only for students 11 and older, but the prime minister told lawmakers in parliament that new efforts were needed “to protect all our children, teachers and parents”.

President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the second wave “will probably be more difficult and deadly than the first”, although he insisted this lockdown would be less severe than measures imposed in the spring.

The lockdown in France, where 36,000 have died, is part of a series of renewed anti-virus restrictions across Europe, which is back at the pandemic’s “epicentre” according to the World Health Organization.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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