France's curfew not slowing COVID-19 infections enough, says government

·2-min read
France enforces 6 p.m curfew to stem the spread of the COVID-19, in Nice

PARIS (Reuters) - A nightly curfew is failing to slow the spread of coronavirus infections in France and tighter curbs are under consideration, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

A curfew runs from 6 p.m until 6 a.m. every night but President Emmanuel Macron is under pressure to impose a third national lockdown since the crisis began almost a year ago as data shows another increase in hospitalisations and deaths.

"The data shows that at this time the curfew is not putting enough of a brake on the spread of the virus," Attal told a news conference after Macron chaired a cabinet meeting.

Scenarios being discussed range from a very strict lockdown to maintaining the status quo, Attal said. It was unlikely no action would be taken, he said.

Restaurants, bars, museums and ski resorts are closed in France but schools are still open. Shops remain open but with restrictions on the numbers allowed inside.

Macron is likely to wait until Saturday, two weeks after the curfew was lengthened, before deciding on the next step and is concerned that more curbs on public freedoms may trigger acts of civil disobedience, a government official said.

Public opinion is split. An opinion poll on Wednesday showed 52% of French people opposed another tough lockdown.

In the Mediterranean city of Nice, diners crowded into one brasserie which opened for lunch in defiance of COVID-19 rules, serving gnocchi and beef ragout.

Seated at tables, patrons sung 'Bella Ciao', an Italian folksong later associated with the anti-fascist resistance movement. The restaurant owner was summoned to a police station.

During its first lockdown last spring, France closed all schools and universities and prohibited citizens from leaving their homes other than to buy groceries, carry out essential work, seek medical attention or exercise. Schools remained open during a less stringent confinement in the autumn.

The government's top scientific adviser, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, said on Sunday a new lockdown was necessary but that it was for politicians to decide how tough to make it.

Failure to impose another lockdown would result in a very difficult March as a more contagious variant first detected in Britain becomes increasingly prevalent in France, Delfraissy said.

The daily number of hospitalisations reached an eight-week high of 27,041 on Tuesday. The COVID-19 death toll rose by 612 to 74,106, the world's seventh highest.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Benoit Van Overstraeten; editing by John Stonestreet, Gareth Jones and Timothy Heritage)