France ‘still far’ from ending partial virus lockdown

French authorities are unlikely to lift a partial coronavirus lockdown any time soon, a government spokesman said Wednesday, even if some restrictions may be relaxed before Christmas.

France 'still far' from ending partial virus lockdown
A pedestrian walks past the closed terrace of Les Deux Magots cafe on boulevard Saint-Germain, on the fourth day of a lockdown aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in Par

President Emmanuel Macron and top ministers discussed the crisis, including whether to ease some restrictions from December 1st “if conditions allow it,” spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

But Attal insisted: “We're not at all near ending the lockdown, we're still far from it even.”

Declines in daily new Covid-19 cases since a second nationwide lockdown began on October 30th have sparked a chorus of calls from business associations to let stores open as soon as November 27th for the “Black Friday” sales that kick off the holiday shopping season.

If not, they fear losing out to internet giants such as Amazon, expected to target stuck-at-home shoppers.

“Our fear is simple: The loss of many of our businesses, both small and large, and with them hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country,” dozens of business leaders wrote to Prime Minister Jean Castex this week.

The French mayors' association AMF also called Wednesday for a gradual reopening of stores soon, “to avoid a rush of clients ahead of Christmas, when allowing them to resume operations will be inevitable.”

READ ALSO The next key dates in France's lockdown to look out for

But Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Wednesday called on retailers – including e-commerce firms – to postpone the Black Friday bargain extravaganza.

Macron himself is again expected to address the nation on the virus crisis next week, in particular on prospects for travel and family gatherings for the fast-approaching holiday break.

But officials are wary of taking a “stop and go” approach to fighting the outbreak even if the pandemic slows, since hospitals remain packed with Covid-19 patients.

Health authorities on Tuesday reported 437 coronavirus deaths in the preceding 24 hours, and a total of 4,854 patients in intensive care.

This meant nearly 96 percent of intensive care beds available before the crisis erupted are now full – though the government has scrambled to make new ones available.

The number of daily new infections on Tuesday stood at 12,587, far below the 50,000 to 60,000 when Macron announced the new partial lockdown last month.

But Macron said the number of daily cases must fall below 5,000 before the government could start significantly easing the latest restrictions.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.