France imposes new national lockdown as virus deaths mount

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People wearing masks, walk on Alexandre III bridge in Paris, Sunday Oct.25, 2020. A curfew intended to curb the spiraling spread of the coronavirus, has been imposed in many regions of France including Paris and its suburbs. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his country into a new month-long, nationwide lockdown Wednesday aimed at stopping a fast-rising tide of virus patients filling French hospitals, but said schools and some workplaces will stay open.

With over 520 deaths recorded Tuesday, the French leader said the measure that will come into effect Friday would be the only possible way to successfully fight COVID-19.

“We are submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus,” he said in a national televised address. France has been "overpowered by a second wave.”

All France's restaurants, bars and non-essential businesses were ordered shut down starting Friday, and Macron said people should return to full-time remote work wherever possible, but said factories, farms and construction sites could continue working. He said unlike in the spring, this time nursing homes will remain open to visitors when possible, and cemeteries will be open so that people can hold in-person funerals.

The French government is scheduled to lay out the full details of the new lockdown on Thursday.

Macron said that France needs to put on the “hard brakes” on the circulation of the virus to protect the country’s most vulnerable. A stay-at-home order, similar to the March lockdown had been the preferred solution by French scientists. But it had been a guessing game in France if the president would cede to those voices, or choose a more moderate path.

“Nothing is more important than human life,” Macron said, noting that France has one of the highest coronavirus rates in Europe currently.

French markets fell Wednesday on expectations of some kind of lockdown, and economists warn that a full lockdown could impact Europe more broadly if other European countries hit hard by rising infections follow France’s lead.