France has imposed a curfew in Paris and eight other cities from Saturday.
“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a TV appearance, announcing the 9pm-6am curfew that will remain in force for at least four weeks, except for essential reasons.
“We are going to have to deal with this virus until at least the summer of 2021,” Macron said, saying “all scientists” were in agreement on that point.
Other major French cities such as Lyon, Mediterranean port Marseille and southwestern Toulouse will similarly impose curfews, with around 20 million people affected in all, out of a total population of some 67 million.
Macron said new daily coronavirus cases must be brought down to “3,000 or 5,000”, from current levels, which have reached up to almost 27,000.
“We won’t be leaving the restaurant after 9pm,” Macron said. “We won’t be partying with friends because we know that that’s where the contamination risk is greatest.”
Just minutes before Macron’s announcement, his government had said it would prolong a state of health emergency, giving officials greater powers to impose new measures to contain the spread of the pandemic.
He urged people to limit gatherings in their homes to six people, and to wear protective masks on such occasions.
Anyone found to be outdoors during the curfew without special authorisation would face a fine of 135 euros ($159), and more than 10 times that sum for repeat offenders, Macron said.
Macron said 32% of France’s 5,000 intensive care places were currently occupied by coronavirus patients, a proportion that needed to be brought down to “10 to 15% at most”.