France could face second national lockdown as cases soar

28 October 2020, 09:30 | Updated: 28 October 2020, 09:33

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to announce tougher restrictions
French President Emmanuel Macron is set to announce tougher restrictions. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

French President Emmanuel Macron is poised to announce tougher restrictions for France later after coronavirus cases soared. 

A second national lockdown could be imposed for a month when the premier makes a televised address to the nation at 8pm on Wednesday. 

It comes as Covid-19 cases continue to rise despite a strict curfew introduced earlier this month that requires around 46 million people - two-thirds of the population - to stay at home from 9pm to 6am. 

Read more: Anti-lockdown protests erupt in Italy and Spain

On Sunday, France recorded 52,010 coronavirus infections in 24 hours, though the true number is thought to be 100,000 cases per day.

On Tuesday, it reported more than 33,400 new cases and 523 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. 

Pubs and bars are expected to be shuttered again in France
Pubs and bars are expected to be shuttered again in France. Picture: PA

Mr Macron is holding a series of urgent talks with ministers on Wednesday to decide on next steps, with a full-scale lockdown reported to be looming. Alternatives could include extending the curfew hours or regional lockdowns. 

Another option could be to postpone the return of students to schools and universities from the autumn holiday that ends this weekend.

Read more: France 'loses control' of virus amid steep rise in cases

Read more: France passes one million coronavirus cases

Bars and restaurants are expected to be closed completely with other reports also suggesting secondary schools be closed.

Intensive care patients have increased to 2,918, more than half of the country's overall capacity of 5,800.

They could reach the same level as the April peak without new measures, a Government spokesman said. Some hospitals have been forced to divert Covid patients. 

“We have to prepare for difficult decisions," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told France Inter radio. "At some point we have to make hard choices... as our neighbours have," he added, pointing to strict new measures announced for Italy and Spain as a second wave grips Europe. 

Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the French Government’s Scientific Council, said: "We knew there would be a second wave, but we have been shocked by the brutality of what's happened in the last 10 to 15 days.”

So far France has been hesitant to order another national lockdown to avoid further crippling the economy. Belgium is considering a similar clampdown, with the health system there overrun.

Meanwhile, German chancellor Angela Merkel is considering announcing pub and bar closures later.

Anti-lockdown protests have flared in Spain and Italy and public patience over second wave restrictions wears thin.