Macron ‘set to announce new Covid-19 lockdown’ as France reports over 500 deaths

French President Emmanuel Macron will announce new tighter measures on Wednesday night, with widespread reports that he will impose a new nationwide lockdown on the country as it battles against a second wave of Covid-19 infections that some health chiefs say is now 'out of control'.

Macron 'set to announce new Covid-19 lockdown' as France reports over 500 deaths
President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP

Macron will announce the government's next move to battle the second wave of the virus during a televised address to the nation on Wednesday night at 8pm. 

The president met with top government ministers on Tuesday and will hold another emergency defence council meeting on Wednesday morning. 

His Prime Minister Jean Castex also met with union leaders and opposition party chiefs to explain that stricter measures were now necessary to control the virus spread.

Two thirds of the French population have been placed under a nighttime curfew but the PM is reported to have told union leaders that curfews were not enough to control the surge in infections which on Sunday hit a new record of over 52,000 cases.

Speculation has been rife in France this week that the government will announce some kind of lockdown whether localised in certain hot spots such as Paris or Lyon or a national lockdown on weekends and tighter curfews starting from 7pm.

But widespread reports on Tuesday evening suggested Macron and the government are in favour of imposing a four-week national lockdown from midnight on Thursday, but with primary schools and public services to remain open.

Bars and restaurants would have to close completely however. Reports also said secondary schools would also close.

It was not clear if all shops would be allowed to stay open or just those selling essential goods such as groceries, which was the case in spring.

However the country will likely have to wait until Macron's speech to know for sure what restrictions will be imposed on their daily lives.

The state of crisis became clear on Tuesday evening when the public health body Santé Publique France reported 523 more Covid-19 related deaths. That's the highest total reported on one day since April. 

Tuesday's death toll was inflated because it included the number of recent deaths reported in care homes (235 in the last four days) as well as hospitals (288) in the last 24 hours. 

On Monday France reported 266 deaths but only in hospitals.

Nevertheless the number of intensive care patients continued to rise to 2,900 – 148 more than Monday and the overall number of hospital patients was up to 18,955.

France reported 33,417 new cases on Tuesday, down from the 52,000 reported on Sunday but up by 40 percent from the number of deaths reported on Tuesday last week (20,468).

How France's second wave of Covid-19 exploded in just one a month

Measures put in place up to now such as making face masks obligatory in workplaces and outdoors in most cities, closing bars and nighttime curfews have failed to suppress a second wave that has hit all of Europe hard. 

“The outbreak is out of control,” said infectious disease specialist Gilles Pialoux from Paris' Tenon hospital.

Pialoux, interviewed by BFM television on Tuesday, was one of several health professionals who this week have called on the French government to take tougher measures to slow down the spiralling Covid-19 rates in the country.

In the space of just weeks, France's Covid-19 rates have exploded. “We knew there would be a second wave, but we have been shocked by the brutality of what's happened in the last 10 to 15 days,” said Jean-François Delfraissy, President of the Scientific Council set up to advise the government on their Covid-19 policies, on Tuesday.

Delfraissy outlined possible steps the government could take to curb the spread of the virus in an interview with RTL radio.

READ ALSO: What lockdown scenarios are the French government considering?

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French PM says Covid tests for travellers from China ‘will continue’

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Tuesday that Covid-19 tests for travellers arriving from China would continue despite protests from Beijing.

French PM says Covid tests for travellers from China 'will continue'

“I think we’re performing our duty in asking for tests,” Borne told franceinfo radio when asked about China’s reaction, before adding: “We will continue to do it.”

“We’re doing it while respecting the rules of the World Health Organisation and we will continue to do it,” she added.

Since Sunday, travellers from China arriving in France must wear a mask and be prepared to submit to a test on arrival, which are being done at random.

From Thursday, all travellers will be required to present a negative PCR or antigen test undertaken less than 48 hours before their flight.

French authorities have described the testing regime as a means of tracking variants that might be spreading in China since the country lifted its strict Covid-19 restrictions.

“Our objective — and all the scientists agree on this point — is to follow the evolution of the virus and that’s what we’ve been doing since Sunday,” Borne said.

European nations are seeking to coordinate their responses, with France, Italy and Britain testing arrivals while other states such as Germany have no restrictions.