France Extends Earlier Curfew Nationwide in Virus Battle

France will extend tighter curfew measures across the country, as it fights to beat back the coronavirus spread.

The 6 p.m. curfew already in place across much of eastern France will become nationwide from Saturday, Prime Minister Jean Castex said at a news conference on Thursday. It will last at least 15 days, he said, as he also raised the prospect of a new lockdown.

“If we see a strong deterioration of the epidemic in coming days, we would have to decide, without delay, on a new lockdown,” Castex said.

Governments across Europe are tightening curbs, bidding to hold back the virus as widespread vaccination is awaited. German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to toughen German lockdown measures in a nationwide push, including school closures and possibly curfews, Bild reported on Thursday. In France, cafes, bars and restaurants remained closed, along with cinemas, theaters and gyms.

French infections have been rising over the last month, and hospitalizations linked to the virus are now five times higher than in August. The government is accelerating vaccinations, expanding those eligible to get the shot beyond nursing home residents. France will also plans to test more than 1 million students a month, as the government seeks to keep schools open.

France’s seven-day rolling average of new cases has increased to about 18,000 from around 13,000 at the start of December.

The nation’s economic recovery will depend to a large degree on the vaccination campaign, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday. The French are becoming more positive about the Covid shot, with an Ifop poll suggesting that 54% now plan to get vaccinated, rising from 39% at the start of December.

The government has been on the defensive as the pace of vaccinations lags behind its neighbors. France had vaccinated about 247,000 people by Wednesday, less than a third of the number in Germany and Italy.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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