The pandemic situation in France is critical, so the government has issued a decree to impose a state of nationwide health emergency starting from 17 October. A curfew will be introduced in the capital and eight other major cities, and those violating the rules can expect hefty fines.
The French prime minister has reimposed a state of health emergency for the whole of France. The first similar measure expired on 10 July, but the spread of the novel coronavirus has accelerated and the second wave is already in full swing, with the number of new cases reaching record highs each day. According to the latest data, more than a hundred people have died in the last 24 hours, 193 people have been placed on a ventilator and 1,664 patients are being treated in intensive care units.
In view of the extraordinary situation, Emmanuel Macron made an important announcement regarding the new measures to be introduced. Mr Macron began his speech by saying that the second wave of the epidemic had arrived, but he denied that France had lost control of the virus. He added, however, that the resurgence in the number of COVID-19 cases was putting hospitals and ICUs under great pressure, and described the situation as "worrying".
The president said that the currently registered figure of 20,000 cases a day should be reduced to between 3 to 5 thousand, which justifies the planned government measures, such as the introduction of a curfew in the most infected areas, starting from midnight on Friday. These include Paris and the Ile-de-France region surrounding the capital, along with eight cities, namely Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Aix-en Provence, Marseille, Rouen, Toulouse and Montpellier. Residents in these cities may not leave their homes between 9pm and 6am in the next four weeks.
The president will submit his proposal to parliament to extend this period until 1 December, arguing that the country needs around six weeks to curb the spread of the virus.
Those violating the curfew can expect a fine of 135 euros, with an even higher fine of 1,500 euros imposable on repeat offenders. However, the economy cannot be shut down and those who finish work after 9 pm will be allowed to go home. Those who need medical care will also be permitted to leave their homes.
As the tightening restrictions are expected to have a significant impact on the economy, the state will support sectors adversely affected by the new measures. Those employed in the hotel and hospitality industries or in the field of culture, for instance, will receive 100 per cent of their pay under France's partial unemployment scheme, according to plans. The government currently has no plans to cut the number of public transport services. While mask-wearing in public remains mandatory and crucial, it is simply a recommendation to wear face masks at home. Stressed that physical contact should be limited to the necessary minimum, President Macron urged people to respect the principle of having no more than six people in one place, whether it is a family gathering or a dinner at a restaurant.
Emmanuel Macron admitted that the Stop Covid phone app did not work in France as it was downloaded by far fewer people than in neighbouring countries. He added that a new application called Tous Anti-Covid (All Against Covid) will be launched on 22 October with the aim of providing information on the spread of the virus, testing sites, as well as specific local guidelines.
Young people aged between 18 to 25 who receive Active Solidarity Income (ARS) and Personalised Housing Assistance (APL) benefits will be given a grant of 150 euros over the next six weeks, while families living in the most modest of circumstances will be sent 100 euros per child, just like during the lockdown in the spring.
Emmanuel Macron concluded his speech by stressing that there was hope for France to recover from the coronavirus-induced crisis, adding that the recovery required solidarity and unity.