France will go into national lockdown starting from Friday to stem the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday evening.
"The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated," said Macron in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported. "Like all our neighbours, we are at the same point, overwhelmed by a second wave which will undoubtedly be harder and more deadly than the first."
To contain the spread of the virus, the president ordered the nation to go back into a national lockdown, like in mid-March when COVID-19 patients in the first wave of the epidemic overwhelmed hospitals.
For the new lockdown, the only authorized out-of-home trips will be "to go to work, to a medical appointment, to assist, to go shopping or to take the air," said Macron.
The restrictive measures would affect universities, libraries, bars, cafes, restaurants, gyms, etc. Public gatherings are banned and cultural ceremonies and conferences are suspended, according to the president.
But unlike the first lockdown, nurseries, primary schools and middle schools will remain open, said the president, arguing that "our children would not be lastingly deprived of education, of contact with the school system."
And public services, factories, farms and constructions will continue their activities "in strict compliance with health protocols," said the president. Visits to nursing homes will also be allowed.
Detailed measures of the new lockdown will be announced by the government on Thursday.
Starting from Thursday midnight, the measures will be applied nationwide until at least early December. The government will meet in two weeks to consult on whether adjustments are necessary, Macron said.
If in the next two weeks people rigorously respect the rules and the health situation improves, the government will review the possibility of re-opening some non-essential businesses, he added.
"We need everyone's sense of responsibility. Stay at home as much as possible. Respect the rules. Success depends on the good citizenship of each and every one of us. Every hour counts," stressed the president.
France was in a national lockdown from March 17 to May 11 to contain the spread of the virus.
Two weeks into the lockdown, the daily infections reached the peak of the first wave (7,578) on March 31. But the figure dropped to a little above 4,500 in the first half of April and then went below 1,000 in May.
However, the number crept back up in recent months and reached a record 52,010 on October 25.
France on Wednesday recorded 36,437 new COVID-19 infections, 3,020 more than the number registered in the previous 24 hours. The cumulative number of coronavirus cases soared to 1,235,132, including 35,785 deaths, up by 244 in one day, figures released by Public Health Agency showed.