France advances its curfew by two hours on Saturday, to 6 p.m. in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Already in force in much of the eastern part of the country, this measure is being extended to the entire territory while concern is growing in Europe in the face of the threat of new, more contagious variants. The United Kingdom announced that it would impose as of Monday, in addition to a negative test for Covid-19, a quarantine on all travelers arriving from abroad.
It is a change to special winter time: France advances Saturday, January 16 by two hours the curfew, henceforth fixed at 6 p.m. throughout its territory, in a race against time to vaccinate the population and try to stem the Covid-19 epidemic.
Already in force in 25 departments, the curfew at 6 p.m. is extended to the entire metropolitan territory from “from this Saturday and for at least 15 days,” Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday.
Because the number of cases remains high, with 21,217 confirmed in 24 hours on Friday, and around 20,000 new ones recorded every day since the beginning of the year, far from the 5,000 expected in mid-December by the government, according to Health public France.
The exemptions remain the same as before (business travel, for a medical appointment, for a compelling reason …) but the businesses will have to lower the curtain at 6 p.m.
Another bad news for the sector, a few days before the start of the sales. For restaurants also, closed at least until mid-February and trying to survive thanks to take-out sales.
“We are constantly making efforts to adapt and we are still putting sticks in our wheels,” complained Benjamin Nieto, owner of the restaurant “Chez Lucien” in the Croix-Rousse district of Lyon.
“A lot of people don’t finish working at 6 p.m., let alone before, and won’t be able to come and get their meals, it’s a bit discouraging,” he lamented.
Faced with the threat of new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus, the government needs to “further reduce social contacts at the end of the day”.
The schools will remain open, but indoor school and extracurricular sports activities are suspended and the health protocol in the canteens will be reinforced.
And the advancement of the curfew does not protect from a new confinement “if we observe a strong epidemic deterioration”, warned Jean Castex.
389,000 people vaccinated
These restrictions are driven by the arrival of new variants of the coronavirus, which have emerged in England and South Africa. Probably more contagious, they have already forced several countries on the European continent to reconfine themselves.
It remains to be seen whether the effectiveness of the advanced curfew will be sufficient to curb the epidemic.
In an opinion given to the government on January 12 and made public on Friday, the Scientific Council went so far as to recommend a “limitation of travel” between regions, or even confinement in the most risky places.
So far, 87 cases of contamination by the English variant (suspected of being more contagious) and four cases of contamination by the South African variant (suspected of being more contagious and of reducing the effectiveness of the vaccine) have been identified in France, according to the Ministry of Health.
If the English variant appears to be responsible for only “1 to 2% of the cases of Covid-19 currently diagnosed in France”, according to Public Health France, it is “inevitable” that this mutant virus will replace the classic coronavirus within two to three months, warned virologist Bruno Lina, who coordinates the mapping of this variant.
In an attempt to stem the epidemic before the variants ramp up, the race against time continues to vaccinate the population. Almost 389,000 people received the first injection.
Monday, the vaccination campaign will be extended to people over 75 years of age who do not live in nursing homes, as well as to people with high-risk pathologies (chronic renal failure, cancer under treatment, etc.).
Friday, 833 centers were “open and accessible for reservation”, assured the Minister of Health Olivier Véran.
However, making an appointment, possible since Thursday morning, is sometimes akin to an obstacle course, even if “more than a million appointments were made on Friday”, according to the Ministry of Health.
New restrictions in the UK
The United Kingdom announced on Friday that it would impose as of Monday, in addition to a negative test for Covid-19, a quarantine on all travelers arriving from abroad, ending the exemptions granted to certain countries, to avoid contamination by new variants.
The UK is hit hard by a second wave of the epidemic, the virulence of which is attributed to a variant of the new coronavirus identified in the country has resulted in a third lockdown.
Criticized for its handling of the crisis, Boris Johnson’s government is focusing its efforts on mass vaccination. More than 3.2 million people have already received a first dose of the vaccine.
Anyone arriving in the United Kingdom will therefore have to remain confined for ten days, a period that can be shortened with a negative screening carried out at least five days after arrival.
Boris Johnson called on the British to strictly adhere to the containment in force to stem the surge in cases.
Images of densely visited parks in recent days have prompted authorities to reiterate their calls for caution. In one of these parks, in Leeds (North of England), hundreds of people took part in a giant snowball fight Thursday afternoon.
Even though the number of new cases has fallen since containment, the United Kingdom has recorded nearly 56,000 in 24 hours according to the latest report released on Friday.
The number of people hospitalized, more than 37,000, continues to climb and has far exceeded the peak of the first wave.
More than 87,000 people died within 28 days of being tested positive for the coronavirus (+1,280), the worst toll in Europe.
Next week, the number of people hospitalized and dead “will continue to increase”, anticipates Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, because the effects of the confinement “take some time to be felt”.