1 Apr 2021

Covid-19: France schools to close under third lockdown

9:20 am on 1 April 2021

French schools will close for at least three weeks as part of new national restrictions to fight rising Covid cases, President Emmanuel Macron says.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaking to media at the arrival of  Portuguese Prime minister António Costa for a working lunch on 16 December.

Photo: AFP

Macron said that schools would move to remote learning from next week.

Lockdown measures, introduced in some areas of France earlier this month, are also being extended to other districts.

All non-essential shops are to close from Saturday and there will be a ban on travelling more than 10km from home without good reason.

France's Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 59,038 new coronavirus cases.

The ministry added that 5053 patients were in intensive care units, down from a 2021 record of 5072 on Tuesday.

France has so far reported more than 4.6 million cases of coronavirus and 95,495 Covid-related deaths.

In his live televised address on Wednesday, Macron described the situation in the country as "delicate" and said that April would prove crucial.

The 43-year-old president said that it was a race between vaccination on the one hand and attempting to control the spread of the virus on the other.

He said that while schools would be closing from next week, classes would remain open for the children of key workers.

Macron said that measures introduced in 19 districts earlier this month - including the closure of non-essential businesses, exercise restricted to within 10km of an individual's home and a ban on travel to other parts of the country without a valid reason - would be extended nationwide.

"Everyone should limit their contacts with other people," he said, adding that people would be given the Easter weekend to get themselves to where they want to spend the lockdown.

He described "light at the end of the tunnel" if people respected the new measures.

Parliament will debate the measures announced by Macron before voting on them on Thursday, according to the prime minister's office.

Pressure on Paris hospitals

With serious cases of coronavirus increasing in France, the pressure on hospitals in the greater Paris region has resulted in a surge in demand for beds at intensive care units (ICUs). Hospitals in and around Paris have also been reducing non-Covid treatments.

The French hospital federation (FHF) last week warned that wards across the country were facing an "unprecedented violent shock" in the coming weeks if authorities were unable to curb the rise in cases. It urged the government to issue a "strict lockdown" or risk hospitals becoming overwhelmed.

A patient infected with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) is carried by stretcher bearers in the intensive care unit of the Delafontaine Hospital in Saint-Denis, northern suburb of Paris, on March 29, 2021.

A patient infected with the Covid-19 is carried into the intensive care unit of the Delafontaine Hospital in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris. Photo: AFP

In an interview with France Inter radio on Tuesday, head of infectious diseases at the Tenon hospital in Paris, Gilles Pialoux, said that lockdown restrictions should have been implemented sooner.

"We've lost so much time that the measures now will be harder and last for longer," Dr Pialoux said, adding that hospital staff were "tired of being tired".

Public support for a new national lockdown has reportedly been increasing in recent days, with an Elabe Institute poll published on Wednesday suggesting that 54 percent of citizens questioned backed the move.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Wednesday backed the closure of schools, saying the move - which had been seen by the government as a last resort - was necessary because of the "very serious situation".

A group of French school teachers had earlier filed a legal complaint against Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer for "endangering the lives of others", accusing him of failing to protect staff in regular contact with children in classrooms.

What about elsewhere in Europe?

In Germany, the leaders of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, the country's worst hit states, have called for tougher restrictions, saying the situation was worse than initially thought. The city of Hamburg is to introduce a night curfew on Friday.

Spain is to revisit a new law implemented on Wednesday that requires face masks to be worn in outdoor spaces - including beaches and swimming pools - amid mounting criticism over the move.


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