Alcoholic beverages will be banned in French parks and other public spaces outdoors as part of the new limited nationwide lockdown to stop the Covid-19 crisis, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday.
Speaking to the French House of Commons, Castex also said authorities would be quick to disperse groups of more than six people on riverbanks or squares after the new restrictions revealed by President Emmanuel Macron late Wednesday.
Castex said he “unreservedly” condemned people who had not respected the rules, following images of beer-splashing crowds on riverbanks during the spring sunshine in cities including Paris and Lyon.
Meanwhile, prosecutors should “systematically” investigate secret party organizers to endanger the lives of others, he added.
By deciding on school closures and systematic work protocols, Macron hopes to reduce the pressure on hospitals facing a new wave of coronavirus cases that are overwhelmingly intensive care units.
But he refrained from demanding that people stay in their homes or avoid socializing completely, and approved travel between regions during the coming Easter weekend.
Resignation, anger and a “lively” parliamentary debate
The speech of the French Prime Minister came at the beginning of a National Assembly debate on the new restrictive measures. After a vote in the lower house, the measure moves to the Senate for an afternoon debate.
Reports from the National Assembly in Paris, FRANCE 24, Luke Shrago explained that Thursday’s parliamentary vote was mainly symbolic. “It happens under constitutional article 50-1, which basically means that the government can make a declaration and hold a vote, but it will not be a matter of trust in the government,” Shrago said.
“What we can expect to see today is a lot of political stance,” Shrago explained. “The right-wing Les Républicains have already said they will not vote. They said they did not want to vote in a decision that has already been made. The far-right National Rally has said that Macron has not resumed its responsibility and on the left wing Jean-Luc Mélenchon has said that the measures are incoherent. Most have said that the measures do not go far enough, so we can expect a lively debate today. ”
The new measures have been met with a mixture of resignation and anger throughout France. “Lockdown, the sequel … and the end?” Le Figaro made headlines on Thursday, while daily Le Parisien said Macron defended his strategy of “slowing down without shutting down” despite “the situation has never been so dangerous or complicated.”
Third wave peak within ten days
The parliamentary vote comes a day after Macron, in a TV address to the nation, extended light locking measures from 19 areas including Paris to the whole of France on the mainland from April 3 for four weeks.
Macron also announced that all schools and kindergartens were closed for three weeks until April 26. Nevertheless, he also justified his policy of keeping them open since the end of the first shutdown in the spring of 2020, which has received intense criticism in recent weeks: “The school is non-negotiable,” he said.
Travel between different French regions will be banned throughout the nationwide lock-in, while the curfew 19 currently imposed on the 19 regions will be extended to the whole of France.
“We do not have to lock ourselves in, but we must limit our contacts,” Macron informed the nation Wednesday night. “We tried to postpone this day for as long as possible – but unfortunately it has now come,” the president continued. “We will lose control if we do not act now.”
Daily new Covid-19 infections in France have doubled since February to an average of almost 40,000. The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care broke by 5,000 this week, exceeding the top hit during the six-week second lock-in conducted at the end of last year .
On Thursday, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said France could reach the top of the third wave within ten days with the new restrictions.
“We can reach a peak of the epidemic in seven to ten days if everything goes according to plan,” Veran told France Inter radio. “Then we need another two weeks to reach a peak in intensive care units that can occur in late April.”
( Jowharwith AFP)