France’s PM Castex raises alarm over UK virus variant spread, Paris faces lockdown

Photo: EPA

The more contagious British variant "now accounts for about half of people infected with Covid-19 in France", PM Jean Castex said during a press conference on Thursday, news wires reported. He also said France could impose new measures including weekend lockdowns in Paris and 19 other departments in the country from early March if coronavirus cases continue to escalate.

The prime minister said a new nationwide lockdown was not on the agenda, but that French citizens needed to remain alert to make sure they contain the spread of the virus while vaccines are rolled out.

Speaking in a televised address, Castex said the spread was worrying in 20 French departments, including Paris and the areas surrounding the capital. He said those departments would now be subject to heightened scrutiny by public health officials.

If infection rates are still rising in those areas a week from now, measures will be taken, from 6 March, similar to those in force in the cities of Nice and Dunkirk.

Shortly after Castex's remarks, Paris's first deputy mayor, Emmanuel Grégoire, said officials planned to propose a three-week lockdown in the French capital. The idea is to have the chance to "reopen everything” afterwards, Grégoire told France Info radio.

Like the rest of the country, Paris has been under a nighttime curfew since 15 December. Its bars, restaurants and cultural venues have been closed even longer due to the spread of Covid-19.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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