France lockdown: Prime Minister announces local restrictions
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Mr Macron has constantly rejected health experts’ calls to lock the country down since late January after vowing to do whatever it took to keep the eurozone’s second largest economy as open as possible. But he ran out of options this week as France was ravaged by a third wave of infections with the virulent variant first detected in Britain now accounting for 75 percent of cases.
This lockdown is just another admission of failure
And his decision to reimpose restrictions on the capital and large parts of the country have been met with bitter recriminations with furious critics lining up to berate the President for failing to handle the crisis.
Right-wing National Rally leader led the onslaught with a withering attack on Mr Macron and his chaotic response to the pandemic.
She tweeted: “Lockdown comes when you have failed everything else.
“The French pay for a slow and inconsistent vaccination process.”
National Rally MEP Jerome Riviere said: “Lockdown is the result of a chaotic vaccine policy.”
And fellow party member Julien Odoul said: “This government only knows how to punish the French and buy time. What a fiasco!”
Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the opposition Insubordinate France movement, also laid into the Macron administration’s disastrous Covid-19 strategy.
He said: “The government did not plan anything.”
Insubordinate France MEP Manon Aubry: “This lockdown is just another admission of failure.
“Back to the Middle Ages: lockdown. Then out of lockdown. Then lockdown again.”
Insubordinate France MP Adrien Quatennens said: “It is clear that the problem is not only the virus, but also the hazardous management of Macron.”
Their outrage was shared by Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, President of minority Debout la France party.
He said: “This incapable government makes the French pay for its serious faults.”
Supporters insisted Mr Macron had no choice but to impose the fresh month-down lockdowns as the French health service began to buckle under the weight of the third wave.
Intensive care wards are under severe strain, notably in Paris where the incidence rate surpasses 400 infections in every 100,000 inhabitants.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said: “The epidemic is getting worse.
“Our responsibility now is to not let it escape our control.
“Four weeks, the time required for the measures to generate a sufficient impact.
“It is the time we need to reach a threshold in the vaccination of the most vulnerable.”
Mr Castex insisted the government had no regrets about not locking down earlier.
He said: “It was the right decision in January. We would have had an unbearable three-month lockdown. We did well not to do so.”
France reported 35,000 new cases yesterday and there are now more Covid-19 patients in intensive care in Paris than at the peak of the second wave.
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The lockdowns will kick in from midnight in France’ 16 hardest-hit departments that, with the exception of one on the Mediterranean, form a corridor from the northern Channel port city of Calais to the capital.
Travel out of the worst-hit areas will not permitted without a compelling reason.
Although Mr Macron stopped short of ordering a nationwide lockdown, the new restrictions may be extended to other regions if needed and may yet slow the country’s economic recovery.
A nationwide nightly curfew in place since mid-December remains in place, though it will start an hour later at 7pm.
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)
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