Will a night-time curfew help fight coronavirus in France?

Scientists are divided over the curfew measures that President Macron is expected to announce in his speech tonight

14 October 2020
A Paris street at night with pedestrians. Will a night-time curfew help fight Coronavirus in France?Night-time curfews in major cities in France may be announced by the President this evening
By Joanna York

President Macron may announce a curfew for maximum alert zones in France in his speech at 20:00 this evening (October 14), but scientists are divided over whether the measure will help reduce Covid-19 transmissions.

The idea of a curfew was discussed in parliament yesterday (October 13) and defended by government advisory body the Conseil Scientifique. 

If introduced, a curfew could restrict shop opening hours in France, banning them from opening in the evening, or go even further.

Curfews have been used throughout the health crisis in the overseas territory of French Guiana, with the most restrictive measures banning residents from going outside between 17:00 and 5:00 on weekdays unless they were making an essential journey, such as travelling to work. 

Curfews have also been used to fight the spread of Covid-19 in Germany, Austria, Belgium and Australia.

Read more: Will Macron announce big changes in Covid-19 speech?

Tighter restrictions in France ‘unavoidable’ 

Scientists in favour of a curfew in France include Professor Jean-François Mattéi, president of medical organisation the Académie nationale de médecine.

Speaking to news source FranceInfo he said: “We cannot avoid stronger measures [in France].  

“We can still avoid a total confinement – as it would be terrible for the country and the economy – but we are going towards partial confinements that could be defined geographically, or towards curfews, for example from 20:00 to 5:00.” 

Scientific support for curfews

Government advisory body the Conseil Scientifique is also in favour of introducing curfews in the worst-affected cities France, as is Professor Bruno Mégarbane, head of intensive care at Lariboisière hospital in Paris. 

He told FranceInfo it was likely France would need to reintroduce working from home, reinforce measures in elderly care homes and introduce a curfew of some description. 

He said: “The word curfew refers to restrictive measures of varying strength, some of which could be accepted by people in France.”

 

Others see curfews as ‘failure’

However, the scientific community is not united in support of curfew measures in France. 

Epidemiologist Professor Catherine Hill told FranceInfo that introducing curfews would not address the core health issues. She said: “To control the epidemic, it is simple. We have to find contagious people and isolate them. We must find them quickly, and that is not at all what we are doing. 

The professor suggested that increasing Covid-19 testing capabilities would have a greater impact.

Dr Jérôme Marty, president of medical association l’Union française pour une médecine libre, is also against curfews. He said confinement, such as curfews, “are a symbol of failure. When we are confined, it is because all prior measures have failed".

He added: “For me, [the idea of a curfew] is symbolic of a government that’s running after this illness, and that is everything you shouldn’t do. We have to be proactive when it comes to this illness. And, with this, we are not being proactive, we are being reactive.”

Dr Marty suggested that a better strategy would be to isolate “dangerous” places such as schools and elderly care homes and to provide GPs with rapid antigen tests.

President Macron’s speech will be televised on channels TF1 and France2 from 19:55 this evening. 

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