French authorities started stepping up checks at airports and toll stations on Saturday to enforce a ban on movement as the coronavirus pandemic entered a “critical” phase.
Three regions were added on Friday at midnight to the 16, including Paris and surrounding areas, that had already been under a raft of restrictions. These include a ban on travelling more than 10 kms from home without special permission, no travel out of the territory except in emergencies, business closures and half-classes in upper secondary schools.
Another 24 regions are under heightened surveillance. The rest of the country is under a curfew from 7 PM to 6 AM, while bars, restaurants and cultural sites are all closed.
However, the French Government, unlike those of other countries, has decided to allow schools to remain open due to the risk of dropouts and mental problems among confined students.
As France’s third wave of COVID-19 infections continues to spike, leaving the country in a “critical” situation, according to Prime Minister Jean Castex, the authorities have intensified checks at airports and toll stations.
On Saturday, there were “about 10 teams,” as against the usual two or three,” at the Montparnasse train station in Paris, French news agency AFP heard from a police captain who said the checks would be stepped up “at peak hours.”
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron had warned that the weeks ahead would be difficult.
A Defence Council meeting is to be held on Wednesday to decide whether to toughen sanctions.
France is scheduled to hold postponed regional and departmental elections on 13 and 20 June. The Government said it would base a decision on a further postponement on the opinion of the Scientific Council, which is supposed to submit its recommendations on Sunday to the Executive.
The number of patients in intensive care as at Friday afternoon was 4,766, quite close to the peak of 4,900 registered during the second wave in Autumn, while the bar of 200,000 new cases per week has already been crossed.
Thus far, 94,302 persons have died in France since the start of the pandemic, and infections have been spiking during the month of March, due mainly to the virulent, more contagious, U.K. variant of the virus.
About 7.5 million persons have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 2.6 million who have had both doses. France has thus registered over 10 million injections.
Industry Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher announced on Saturday on Europe 1 that close to three million additional doses would arrive in the country in the coming week.