French PM rejects new lockdown despite 9000+ cases a day

Paris: French Prime Minister Jean Castex says his government is not planning a new, nationwide lockdown to contain a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, but would instead implement a raft of less radical measures.

France has the world's seventh highest coronavirus death toll, and President Emmanuel Macron's government is trying to curb it while ensuring that economic and social activities, such as school education, can continue as much as possible.

People enjoy the outdoors along the Seine in Paris on Friday.Credit:AP

Castex said new measures would include fast-tracked testing for priority cases to reduce time spent waiting for results, and targeted restrictions in areas hit especially hard.

"The virus is with us for several more months and we must manage to live with it without letting ourselves get drawn once again into a narrative of nationwide lockdown," Castex said in a televised address.

France reported 9406 new cases on Friday, following 9843 new cases on Thursday.

The government also revised its earlier COVID-19 statistics to show that French deaths had risen by 80 over the previous 24 hours to total 30,893 casualties.

Morning rush hour commuters wear protective face masks while boarding and exiting a train at Saint-Lazare station in Paris this week.Credit:Bloomberg

France imposed a strict lockdown in March at the height of the epidemic's first wave – people weren't allowed to leave home without a signed form explaining the essential reason for the outing. Exercise was restricted to one hour a day and within 1km of home. That succeeded in preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed, but also dealt a severe blow to the euro zone's second biggest economy.

That lockdown was relaxed towards the start of May. Since then, the number of cases has gradually risen and the number of people sick enough to need hospital treatment has increased.

Castex said the rise in cases was particularly worrying in three areas – the cities of Marseille and Bordeaux, and the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe.

He said he had asked leaders of those regions to submit their proposals to him on Monday for local measures to contain the spread.

Local officials throughout France would have enhanced powers to impose new restrictions if they deemed it necessary, including making some businesses reduce opening hours, the Prime Minister said.

Castex, who himself is in isolation after coming into contact with someone infected, said some French citizens had let down their guard against the disease.

They needed to be more disciplined about social distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks, he said.

"I solemnly appeal today to the sense of responsibility of each one of you," said Castex.

"The only way we will succeed in stopping this epidemic is if all of us are vigilant and stick together."


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