France Covid-19: No plans for third lockdown at this stage

The government says it has no plans for a new confinement, even though neighbouring countries are in lockdown and experts raise fears over new Covid strains spreading in France

11 January 2021
By Joanna York

The French government has confirmed that there are no plans for a third national lockdown - at the moment.

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said on radio channel Europe 1 this morning: “At this stage, there is no reconfinement planned… but we are following the situation attentively.” 

The latest figures from health body Santé publique France released yesterday (January 10) show there were 15,944 Covid cases recorded in the previous 24 hours in France. 

While still far from the government goal of 5,000 cases a day, figures show France’s second confinement in November and subsequent strategy of restrictions including curfews have been somewhat successful. This is especially true when compared with neighbours the UK and Germany - both of which are currently in national lockdown.

France’s daily death count has been relatively low since mid-December compared to those of the UK and Germany. Figures from yesterday show that France recorded 151 Covid-related deaths in the previous 24 hours, while there were 373 in Germany and 563 in the UK.

Chart showing daily deaths from Covid in France, the UK and Germany since September 2020 (Sophie Pedder / Twitter)

Mr Attal said: “We see what is happening around us, where a number of countries have had to re-confine. The circulation of the virus is sometimes two or three times higher [there] than in France because people in France have made huge efforts and we made decisions early.”

 

Experts say confinement may be needed soon

But the government announcement comes as experts say a new national confinement may be necessary in France from mid-January, in light of two new highly contagious strains of the virus. 

Members of the PandemIA association published an open letter in newspaper Le Monde newspaper today calling for an end to “stop and go” confinements in France in the face of the “changing nature of the virus”.

The group cited the difficulty of managing deconfinement safely, and the fact that abnormally high mortality rates were recorded during the second wave in France – despite medical advances since the first wave – as reasons to consider confining earlier rather than later.

And, they noted the “much more infectious” nature of the UK and South African variants of the virus. The UK variant, which is currently present in France, has been estimated to be between 50-70% more contagious than other strains of the virus. 

They wrote: “We fear that worsening of the current Covid wave will require the imposition of a new confinement in mid-January with, again, serious pressure on the health system. 

“Strict and early confinement is the best weapon against viral propagation, even if it is increasingly difficult for people in France to live through. We are not yet finished with Covid-19.” 

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