France Faces Renewed Lockdown ‘Within Days,’ JDD Says

France is set to go back into lockdown “within days” amid concerns that a new wave of infections driven by the more-contagious U.K. variant of the coronavirus could spiral out of control, Journal du Dimanche said, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the matter.

A decision is imminent, JDD wrote, saying President Emmanuel Macron could announce the country’s third lockdown on Wednesday night. It could start before the end of the week and last at least three weeks, according to the paper.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal told France 3 TV on Sunday that no decision has been taken yet and that Covid figures in the next few days will be crucial. Health Minister Olivier Veran said last week that a decision could be made within days or weeks. In the event of a new lockdown, schools would remain open, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told JDD.

France passed the threshold of 3 million Covid-19 cases on Friday. Infections driven by the U.K. variant -- a highly contagious and potentially deadlier strain first identified in Britain late last year -- will probably surge in the country in coming weeks, scientists have warned. Current curbs include a 6 p.m. curfew and closed restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms.

France’s second lockdown, which began in late October, reversed a spike in cases. However, hospitalizations and intensive-care patients remain more than five times higher than in August, straining the health-care system.

The variant that emerged in southeast England in September contributed to a spike in U.K. cases in December that sent the country back into lockdown. Other countries have followed, particularly in Europe. Last week, Germany extended its lockdown measures, including closing non-essential stores and restricting movement in hard-hit areas, to Feb. 14.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that new research suggests the U.K. variant is not only more contagious but more lethal. He didn’t rule out extending the lockdown into the summer.

The government is mulling broader travel bans to try to prevent other variants from spreading in the U.K., Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Sunday. The death toll in the U.K. from Covid-19 is days away from topping 100,000, the highest in Europe.

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