What can France expect from PM’s new announcements as lockdown reaches crucial two-week mark?

What can France expect from PM's new announcements as lockdown reaches crucial two-week mark?
French Prime Minister Castex will be holding yet another live speech to the country tonight at 6pm. Photo: AFP
France has reached the two-week mark for the second lockdown and French Prime Minister Jean Castex will present a plan for weeks to come on Thursday evening. What can we expect?

When President Emmanuel Macron announced the imminent nationwide lockdown to be imposed on October 30th, he said the government would reconvene in two weeks to decide on the road ahead.

“We will decide, if necessary, on additional measures and will then assess whether we can alleviate certain constraints,” Macron said.

That moment has arrived and the Defence Council is meeting on Thursday morning to thrash out details the road ahead.

Castex will present their decisions at 6pm together with the health minister, economy minister and education minister. We will be following his speech live.

Here's a look at what to expect.

Will shops reopen?

For “non-essential” shop owners, this has been the big question since they had to shut down their business temporarily at the beginning of the second lockdown.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire on Thursday morning said “no decision has been taken” yet, and asked everyone to wait for the prime minister's speech before drawing conclusions.

Still, “the worst case scenario would be to let the virus spread because, in that case, the economy could completely collapse,” Le Maire told BFMTV.

 

Several media reports based on information from officials said the government had decided that reopening shops would be premature given Covid-19 numbers are still high.

On Wednesday France reported 35,879 new infections.

Christophe Castaner, former interior minister and now ruling party LREM's parliamentary president, told French media on Tuesday the slowing down of the rates was “not sufficient” yet and that he hoped shops could reopen on December 1st, when the lockdown is due to end.

More police checks?

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wants to reinforce police checks to ensure compliance with the lockdown rules, which has reportedly been slacker than during the first lockdown this spring.

A new poll showed 60 percent of respondents admitted breaching the lockdown rules. Published by Consolab on Thursday, the poll showed a 27 percent higher non-compliance with the rules compared to this spring.

 

Darmanin asked local authorities to boost the police presence everywhere, “at checkpoints.. (including stations and airports)”, but also parks, gardens and on streets, according to a written note obtained by France Info. 

The interior minister especially wanted to reinforce checks in Paris, where hospitals on Wednesday reported that Covid-19 patients occupied 90 percent of intensive care wards.

Police have issued 65,000 fines since the beginning of lockdown on October 30th, of which 20,000 were handed out in the greater Paris region Île-de-France, the interior ministry informed French media on Tuesday.

Schools to close?

On Tuesday, teachers in France protested the current health rules in place in French schools. Despite a low turnout for the strikers, the government could announce new restrictions such as incorporating more home schooling for secondary school pupils or temporarily closing down high schools (lycées).
 
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer will be present at the press conference on Thursday evening.
 
The government has already asked high schools to ensure more home schooling and ensure smaller groups in classrooms, although Blanquer has pledged that pupils in lycée will get at least 50 percent face-to-face teaching.
 
What is the Covid-19 situation currently?
 
France on Wednesday reported 329 new Covid-19 deaths in the country's hospitals, lower than Monday and Tuesday (551 and 472), however due to reporting lags over the weekend numbers tend to spike early in the week. There was however a drop from last week,  the country recorded 367 deaths on Wednesday November 4th.

France reported 35,879 new cases on Wednesday, lower than in some previous days when daily infections topped 60,000 but a rise on the 22,000 cases reported on Tuesday. There have been issues in the daily reporting of new infections.

Hospital patient numbers dropped slightly. Overall, 2,588 new patients were admitted on Wednesday, but more patients were sent home and the total number dropped by 581 patients nationwide.

Intensive care units admitted 351 new patients, which was roughly the same level as last week and meant an overall increase by 53 patients when taking into account those who left ICU units.
 

Those numbers seemed to indicate a continuation of the trend of slowly decreasing Covid-19 rates as outlined by France's public health director earlier this week, when he also warned that “the peak of the epidemic is coming.”
 
For full data and maps, see the government's website HERE.
 
 
 
 

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