French President Emmanuel Macron has approved a new round of sweeping coronavirus restrictions in his country until at least the end of November. The Premier announced that the second lockdown will commence on Friday and public would only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons. Non-essential businesses, such as restaurants and bars will be closed in the new guidelines while schools and factories will remain open for work.
Daily death toll in France is at the highest level since April 2020 with 33,000 news cases confirmed on Tuesday. The Premier said the Republic risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.
Elsewhere in Germany, the administration has decided to impose an emergency lockdown that is less strict but includes the closure of restaurants, pubs, theaters and gyms. Infections are spiking across Europe including United Kingdom which on Wednesday recorded 310 new fatalities and 24,701 confirmed cases, a new rise. In England, a new study projects that nearly 100,000 people are catching the infection every day with health experts warning that “something has to change.
Night curfews are enforced in several countries including 46mn in France. The new phase of lockdowns and smart lockdowns has affected some of Europe’s biggest economies prompting sudden slumps in financial markets on Wednesday. England’s FTSE 100 closed almost 2.6% lower with Germany’s Dax falling to 4.2%. Major US indexes also shrunk by 3.4% or more.
“We are deep in the second wave,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “I think that this year’s Christmas will be a different Christmas.”
Macron on second lockdown
Macron, in a televised address on Wednesday said that France must now “brutally apply the brakes” to avoid being “submerged by the acceleration of the epidemic”.
“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated,” he said, while confirming that half of all the ICU beds at French hospitals were being filled by coronavirus cases. The President said that under the new measures, people would need to fill in a form before they leave their homes. Social gatherings are blocked in the French Republic.
“Like in the spring, you will be able to leave your house only to work, for a medical appointment, to provide assistance to a relative, to shop for essential goods or to go for a walk near your house,” Macron said. He made clear that only factories and public services would get the immunity from the order adding that the economy “must not stop or collapse”.
He said that visits to care homes – which were no allowed during the 2-month lockdown earlier in March – are permitted under the latest social distancing campaign. The curbs will remain effective until Dec 1, 2020 and will be reviewed every two weeks. The President said he retained “hope that families will be able to be reunited for Christmas”.
Germany moving to less severe restrictions
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country must act now and appealed for a “major national effort” to stop the spread of infection. While Germany records a lower infection rate than other countries in European Union, the recent surge in cases has alarmed Berlin.
“Our health system can still cope with this challenge today, but at this speed of infection it will reach the limits of its capacity within weeks,” Merkel said.