Last night out in France as month-long cur­few starts for 20 mil­lion

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page -

PARIS (AFP) – Mil­lions of French peo­ple en­joyed a last night of free­dom on Fri­day be­fore a COVID-19 cur­few in Paris and other large cities came into force at mid­night, for at least a month, prompted by an alarm­ing surge in new cases.

The cur­few aims to keep some 20 mil­lion peo­ple – 30 per­cent of the French pop­u­la­tion – home from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Satur­day.

It was or­dered by Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron this week as the num­ber of new in­fec­tions and deaths raised the spec­tre of hos­pi­tal over­loads like those seen in March and April.

Health au­thor­i­ties on Fri

day recorded more than 25,000 new coron­avirus cases, af­ter Thurs­day's record of over 30,000. A to­tal of 122 peo­ple were said to have died of the virus in 24 hours.

The mood in the streets of the cap­i­tal Paris ahead of the cur­few was some­thing akin to New Year 's Eve, with ta­bles over­flow­ing in bars and the sound of laugh­ter in the air.

"We will en­joy it as much as pos­si­ble, a restau­rant, bar hop­ping and a lit­tle walk with friends on the Champs-Elysées", said 19-year-old Kur­tys Magdelo who was out with friends.

'Never seen any­thing like it' New in­fec­tions have been ris­ing most rapidly among older cit­i­zens, with con­firmed cases up by around two-thirds over the past six weeks, Sophie Vaux, an epi­demi­ol­o­gist at the Sante Publique health agency, told re­porters.

The sit­u­a­tion in re­tire­ment homes has again be­come "very wor­ry­ing", the agency said.

The ARS health author­ity for the south­east­ern Au­vergneRhon­e-Alpes re­gion, which in­cludes Greno­ble,

Lyon and Saint-Eti­enne, on Fri­day asked hos­pi­tals to can­cel all non-ur­gent surgery to safe­guard in­ten­sive care ca­pac­ity for fu­ture COVID cases.

While the cur­few has broad pub­lic sup­port – a Har­ris In­ter­ac­tive poll af­ter Macron's an­nounce­ment found 70 per­cent ap­proval – of­fi­cials in sev­eral cities wor­ried about the heavy so­cial and eco­nomic costs of a mea­sure set to last four weeks, or pos­si­bly six if the health sit­u­a­tion fails to im­prove.

Paris Mayor Anne Hi­dalgo is press­ing the gov­ern­ment to ease the rules for the­aters, cin­e­mas and other cul­tural venues so that pa­trons can re­turn home later.

No travel re­stric­tions

The cur­few mea­sure, just ahead of the start of a two-week school hol­i­day, con­tains no travel re­stric­tions, rais­ing the prospect that huge num­bers of fam­i­lies will flee cities for the coun­try.

That prompted of­fi­cials in Le Tou­quet, a pop­u­lar re­sort town on the English Chan­nel, to im­pose its own cur­few, with bars and restau­rants or­dered to close at 11:30 p.m.

Na­tion­wide, wed­ding cel­e­bra­tions and other par­ties in pub­lic venues as well as stu­dent par­ties have been out­lawed, and peo­ple are be­ing urged to limit gath­er­ings in pri­vate homes to six peo­ple.

"We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus," Macron said Wed­nes­day when he also put the coun­try back un­der a health state of emer­gency start­ing Satur­day.

Pub­lic broad­caster France Tele­vi­sion said it would do its bit to help peo­ple through the cur­few by adding a feature film ev­ery night to its usual pro­gram­ming, mostly dur­ing prime time.

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