Officials in Paris have suggested that a three-week complete lockdown of the city could see them able to “reopen everything” afterwards.
Paris's deputy mayor, Emmanuel Grégoire, told French broadcaster Franceinfo that the city hall was considering proposing an independent local lockdown to stem the “worrying” rise of new coronavirus infections, with “the prospect of reopening everything” after, including theatres, cinemas and restaurants.
Across France a night curfew from 6pm to 6am has been in place since December 15, but bars, restaurants and cultural venues have been closed even longer.
Grégoire called the curfew a “half-measure” and a “semi-prison” that never ends and suggested a full lockdown would be more effective.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex has said that the government is opposed to a new national lockdown and instead would consider imposing movement restrictions including weekend lockdowns in Paris and 19 other regions from the start of March if signs of the coronavirus accelerating persist.
The areas have been put under "reinforced surveillance" after a leap in infection numbers.
However, Gregoire told reporters at a news conference on Friday that local government is opposed to any weekend lockdowns.
He said he hoped any new restrictions for Paris could curb the spread of the virus and result in "some form of return to normal" life in spring.
The head of the emergencies unit at a hospital in Paris said on Friday that a national lockdown was needed to bring infection rates under control.
Watch: 20 French departments under "reinforced surveillance"
"I do not understand what we are waiting for," Philippe Juvin from the Georges Pompidou European Hospital told BFM TV, adding that the situation at hospitals in the Paris area was very tense.
"As we get closer to an epidemic peak, each day spent without taking a decision comes with a heavy price," he said.
Juvin cited a study showing that 13,000 lives would have been saved if France's March-May lockdown last year had come in a week earlier. The study also showed that if the lockdown had been delayed a week, the death told would have risen by 53,000.
"We will not avoid a new lockdown. And the longer we wait to take such a decision, the longer it will last," Juvin said.
French health authorities reported 25,403 new cases on Thursday, up from 22,501 a week ago, confirming the recent upward trend of the disease, mainly due to new variants.
The more contagious British variant "now accounts for about half of people infected with Covid-19 in France", PM Castex said on Thursday. The same variant had represented fewer than 40 percent of cases according to numbers released a week ago.
The seven-day moving average of daily new cases stands at 21,452, the highest in more than three months. With 3.687 million cases reported in total, France has the six-highest tally globally and its 85,582 death toll is the seventh highest.
The UK's seven-day rolling average of daily cases has dipped below 10,000 a day for the first time since early October.
The UK has been in full lockdown since early January and the government's of the four nations are hoping it will be the last one of the pandemic.
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