Top French advisor talks third lockdown as coronavirus cases surge
France will have to enforce a third national lockdown to handle the worrying surge of coronavirus cases, the country's top medical advisor Prof Jean-Francois Delfraissy said on Sunday. Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the pandemic, called the current situation an "emergency," adding that this week is crucial. The nation's health minister also spoke about another lockdown.
A night curfew was enforced this month to curb spread
The number of coronavirus infections in France stands at 3,053,617 and 73,049 have succumbed to the fatal disease. On January 16, the French government imposed a curfew from 6 pm, for at least two weeks to curb the spread of the virus. However, the number of new cases continued to climb, averaging 20,000 daily as opposed to 18,000 earlier.
UK variant responsible for chunk of new infections
Delfraissy said that the new variant of coronavirus, found in the United Kingdom, now contributes to 7-9% of new infections in some French areas. He claimed France was better positioned than other European nations but called the new variants as "equivalent of a second pandemic." "If we do not tighten regulations, we will find ourselves in an extremely difficult situation from mid-March," he said.
The French government also imposed new border rules. Starting Sunday, all those entering France from other European nations have to furnish a negative RT-PCR report. The test has to be conducted in the last 72 hours. Health Minister Oliver Véran said a lockdown was the only option if the existing measures fail to leave a significant impact.
Will not wait till March to take action: Health Minister
"In a best-case scenario, we will manage to diminish the pressure of the epidemic. If not, we will not wait for the month of March before acting. If the variants start to spread everywhere, we will take extra measures," he said.
A top level meeting will take place on Wednesday
The French government will reportedly meet on Wednesday to decide on the next move. If a lockdown is indeed imposed, President Emmanuel Macron will announce it after the high-level meeting. A spokesperson for the government said all "scenarios are on the table." To note, France first enforced a lockdown from March to May and the second lockdown was imposed between October and December.
Delfraissy said 40% of citizens could be vaccinated by summer-end
As the country remains buried under rising COVID-19 cases, Delfraissy said the only silver lining is that vaccines are available. "In the three months from early February to April-end, we will have a race between the arrival of the UK variant and vaccinating as many people as possible," he asserted. The advisor said just 40% of the population would be inoculated by summer-end.
In Netherlands, anti-lockdown protesters clashed with police
Meanwhile, on Sunday, anti-lockdown protesters started fires in Eindhoven, Netherlands, and clashed with the cops. The police responded with tear gas and arrested nearly 30 people. The country has been under lockdown since mid-December and it is likely to continue till February. Separately, the Italian government is mulling action against US giant Pfizer and British company AstraZeneca as they have delayed the delivery of vaccines.