France rules out Christmas travel ban ahead of PM speech

President Macron has said, ahead of the PM’s deconfinement speech tonight, that stopping Christmas travel is ‘not an option’ in France despite Covid cases remaining high

10 December 2020
By Hannah Thompson

Stopping people travelling over Christmas time is “not an option” in France, President Macron has said, even as Prime Minister Jean Castex is set to announce tonight whether or not lockdown will lift as planned.

Mr Castex will address the country about plans for the second stage of lifting lockdown - which is so far scheduled to begin on December 15 - at 18:00 tonight.

But as France is far from the 5,000 new daily Covid-19 cases threshold set by the government for a safe deconfinement, Mr Castex is either expected to maintain the current rules, or - more likely - to announce new measures designed to contain the spread of the virus.

These could include a possible curfew; the postponement of theatre, cinema, and museum reopenings; and even new confinement forms come December 31.

Read more: France’s 5,000 Covid case target: What if it is not reached?

This has not yet been confirmed. Other options may include allowing theatres, cinemas and museums to open, but to impose strict limits on visitor numbers, or curfew exceptions.

Read more: What changes were originally set for December 15?

The most recent figures on Thursday December 10 show that there were 14,595 new cases in the past 24 hours, and 296 deaths, with a positivity test rate of 6.4%.

The Prime Minister’s office is seeking “the most acceptable route” out of deconfinement, it has said, as President Macron confirms that he is not willing to ban families from meeting up altogether over Christmas - which would be the case if the government chose to continue with a full lockdown.

The President is believed to have said this as a means to balance the morale and hope of the public with economic needs.

Read more: How many friends can come for Christmas?

'Too early' to lift lockdown?

Senior epidemiologist Dr Dominique Costagliola, research director at medical research centre INSERM, told news service FranceInfo that it is “too early” to lift the lockdown, because “at this level of case numbers, it is not possible to trace [contacts] or [impose] isolation effectively”.

Dr Costagliola also expressed concerns over the reliability of figures now that new testing measures have been introduced. Official daily figures are currently based on PCR tests and do not take rapid antigen tests into account.

Some experts have even said that a too-fast relaxation of the lockdown rules now risks causing a “third wave” of the virus come January.

Mr Castex yesterday spoke of the difficulty of deciding what to do for the best. He said: “I am a liberal intellectually, and I should not get involved with what happens within families. But now I have to tell people how they should celebrate [the holidays]. It is difficult for me.”

His speech on the subject - and details of any new rules or lockdown changes - will be televised in France tonight from 18:00, and reported here soon after.

Related stories

Why must Covid cases reach 5,000 for French lockdown to end?

France ‘far from December 15 target’ of 5,000 Covid cases

France at risk of Covid ‘third wave’ as cases still too high

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