Covid UK variant in France: Ministers to discuss new rules

The government is to discuss extending curfew nationally or even a full new lockdown as the ‘worrying’ UK variant continues to spread

12 January 2021
An old-fashioned streetlamp at dusk. Covid UK variant in France: Ministers to discuss new rulesExtending the curfew to a 18:00 start time is one of the options set to be discussed by ministers tomorrow to combat the new Covid variant
By Hannah Thompson

Extending curfew hours to begin at 18:00 across the whole of France, or even reintroducing a full lockdown, are among the possible options set to be discussed in a government meeting tomorrow.

Ministers in the Conseil de Défense are set to meet on Wednesday, January 13 to consider new measures to fight the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic. They will also discuss plans to tackle the new UK variant, which is spreading.

Health Minister Olivier Véran, and president of government advisory body Le Conseil Scientifique have both already said that France “should probably be worried about the new [UK] variant” and “do everything to slow and limit” its spread.

Read more: Covid-19 UK variant: France races to slow spread

The new UK variant - first detected in the UK in September 2020, and first detected in France in Tours in December - is estimated to be 50-75% more contagious than the previous variant of the virus.

The suggested actions that ministers could take include:

  • Extending the curfew to begin at 18:00 across the entire country

Currently it begins at 20:00 in most departments, except for 25 in the east and south-east, where the start time has already been moved to 18:00. This is considered to be the most likely option.

Read more: Curfew advanced in more areas of France as new cluster found

  • Doing nothing nationally

This would mean that the power would rest with local prefects, who can extend the curfew in their areas if the virus is spreading too fast locally. This option is considered unlikely, as the government has said it is keen to act.

  • Imposing another full lockdown

This could also take the form of a regional or partial lockdown in certain areas, or times - for example, over the weekends, according to a source from the prime minister’s office. Currently, a full national lockdown is considered to be unlikely.

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said on Monday January 11 that a new total lockdown had been ruled out “at this stage”, but did not say if that would remain the case.

Prime Minister Jean Castex has said that the country should “not exclude a third lockdown as a last resort” but that for the moment, the numbers “suggest that a curfew is enough”, said news service BFMTV.

Nothing has been decided yet, but it is expected that the health minister will make an announcement on the new measures at a press conference on Thursday January 14.

'More information for appropriate measures'

MP for Ain, Damian Abad - and president of the Les Républicains party - has urged the government for “more clarity on the reality of the spread of the UK variant” and demanded that it “produce updates” on Covid-19 restrictions to parliament every two months.

He also told news service FranceInfo that “we need [more] information to take appropriate measures”, and said that he “wishes to maintain the curfew, as avoiding lockdown is always better, because lockdown has absolutely disastrous economic, social and psychological consequences”.

Mr Abad also called for an “acceleration” of the country’s vaccination campaign and “increased vigilance with curfews at 18:00 in the most-affected departments”.

He said that France would “certainly need to prolong the state of health emergency” too.

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