France back into national Covid-19 lockdown, schools remain open

French President Emmanuel Macron declared a new nationwide lockdown from Friday to stem a surge in coronavirus patients in French hospitals, warning that the second wave of the virus is "likely to be deadlier than the first", news wires reported.

"We have been overwhelmed by the rapid acceleration of Covid-19," Macron announced on Wednesday in a prime-time televised address, stressing that "all French regions are now in high alert".

The French president said a nationwide lockdown would be enforced initially until 1 December, though schools and creches will remain open.

The new measures, which come into force on Friday, will mean people have to stay in their homes except to buy essential goods, seek medical attention, or use their daily one-hour allocation of exercise.

Cafes, restaurants and shops will shut down unless they are deemed to be selling essential goods, such as supermarkets and pharmacies.

People will still be allowed to go to work if their employer deems it impossible for them to do the job from home, Macron said. 

"Like last spring, you will be able to leave your home only for work, for a doctor's visit, to help a relative, do essential shopping or go out shortly for air," the French president added.

Anyone outside their home will need to carry a written statement justifying their presence outside.

Over the past few weeks, France has been reporting tens of thousands of new infections per day and is now recording more than 380 new cases each week per 100,000 people. Health officials recorded 523 virus-related deaths in 24 hours Tuesday, the highest daily tally since April, bringing the country's overall death toll to 35,541, the third-highest toll in Europe after Britain and Italy.

"The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated," Macron said in his address. He added that lockdown measures would be gradually eased once new daily infections drop below the 5,000-mark, from a current average of 40,000."If in two weeks, we have the situation under better control, we will be able to re-evaluate things and hopefully open some businesses, in particular for the Christmas holiday," Macron said. "I hope we'll be able to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with family," he added.

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