France imposed new measures to fight the rapid resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic in major cities, adding to risks weighing on an already slowing economic recovery.The first significant tightening of restrictions on daily life since the end of the lockdown in May includes closing bars at 10 p.m. in Paris and several other large urban centres. The tougher restrictions follow similar moves in the UK, as Europe reemerges at a hot spot for the disease.
“If we don’t take measures rapidly, we risk being in a critical situation in some regions in a few weeks,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said at a press conference in Paris, insisting that the government is not considering another nationwide lockdown. National statistics agency Insee said that while business leaders are more upbeat about recent activity, they are losing optimism about the outlook for their own companies and the entire services sector.
In France, the virus has gathered force after tailing off at the start of the summer. The country has recently hit fresh highs in daily infections of more than 13,000 positive tests.So far, the fresh wave of infections hasn’t claimed large numbers of lives. More than 30,000 people died from the disease in France between March and July. The government reported 43 deaths linked to Covid-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 31,459.
Gyms in the hardest-hit French cities will be shuttered for two weeks, and there will be limits on public and private gatherings. In Marseille -- one of the most seriously affected areas -- all restaurants and bars will be shut from Saturday. Any new restrictions will apply for two weeks and can be extended, Veran said, adding that businesses affected will be compensated.“It’s an unfair decision that the government has taken only to mask its inability to handle the crisis,” Franck Trouet, spokesman for the employers’ union GNI.
Many of the new infections have been linked to vacationers bringing the virus home, as well as young people socializing without respecting distancing and hygiene rules.France’s neighbors are reacting by restricting travel. Italy on Monday ordered mandatory virus tests for people arriving from Paris and some other parts of France. Germany on Wednesday added the regions of Brittany, Normandy and Centre-Val de Loire to its list of coronavirus “risk areas.” The Paris region has been on the list since the end of August.
France is the latest in a string of European governments to change tack in the face of mounting infection rates as they try to avoid the widespread restrictions that tipped the continent into a deep recession earlier this year. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week abandoned his appeal for Britons to return to offices as he warned of “many more deaths” unless people obey a raft of new restrictions.