Paris, Mar 31 (efe-epa).- President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that the “limited lockdown” already in effect in 19 of France’s 96 non-overseas departments will be extended to the entire country to reduce pressure on hospitals amid a surge in new coronavirus cases.
The nationwide “reinforced slow-down,” including a 7:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew, will begin on Saturday and continue through at least the end of April, he said in a televised address.
Macron asked the French people for an “additional effort” to prevent hospital intensive care units from being overwhelmed in the country.
“The situation is more dangerous than in the fall, because the virus is more contagious and more deadly” due to the presence of the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, he said.
As of Tuesday, ICUs across France were treating 5,072 Covid-19 patients, the highest number in nearly a year.
Under the limited lockdown, the list of businesses allowed to continue operating includes “non-essential” establishments such as bookstores and flower shops.
With few exceptions, residents are barred from traveling outside their respective departments and people may not venture more than 10 km (6 mi) from home except for work or an urgent matter.
Nurseries and elementary schools will be closed for three weeks, while middle and high schools are to be shut down for four weeks, a period that encompasses the already scheduled April 12-25 Easter break.
Aside from the vacation time, students will be engaged in remote learning. Nurseries and elementary schools are set to resume in-person classes on April 26.
Middle and high schools will re-open May 5 on terms adapted to the state of the pandemic.
Macron said that parents unable to work from home will be able to receive temporary unemployment benefits during the school closure.