France shutters schools, bans travel in new COVID-19 lockdown

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March 31 (UPI) — French President Emmanuel Macron announced stricter COVID-19-related lockdown measures Wednesday, closing schools and banning domestic travel for weeks.

Macron gave an update on the new restrictions during a nationally televised address. He said the new rules will go into place Saturday.

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“These last weeks we are facing a new situation. We have entered a race of speed,” Macron said. “We must therefore set ourselves a new framework for the coming months.”

France has seen an increase in new coronavirus cases and deaths since the beginning of the year despite the administration of millions of vaccine doses.

The country reported more than 30,000 new cases and some 1,000 deaths Tuesday. Those figures represent a 55% and 30% increase, respectively, over the past 14 days.

Case figures haven’t been this high since mid-November, when France was coming down from its all-time peak of 86,000 daily cases.

Macron’s announcement means lockdown measures in 19 regions of France will now be expanded nationally. Schools will be closed for at least three weeks and travel restrictions will be in place for a month.

The president also asked people to work from home if possible and implemented a nationwide curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day. People are allowed to leave their home for leisure, but must stay within 6 miles of their homes. Non-essential businesses must shutter.

Macron also called for an increase in vaccinations. Currently anyone over the age of 70, healthcare workers and those in high-risk categories are eligible to receive the shot. He promised to allow those over 60 to receive the vaccine in mid-April, those over 50 in mid-May and the entire population in June.

According to the Health Ministry, about 8 million people in France have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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January 31, 2020

National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo