Millions in France prepared Friday to enjoy a last night of freedom before a Covid-19 curfew in Paris and other large cities, after officials warned that new efforts were needed to curb an alarming surge in new cases.
According to Agence France Presse, the curfew, which aims to keep some 20 million people home from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am, was unveiled 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 reported Thursday a record 30,621 new cases in the past 24 hours and 88 deaths, and over 200 new Covid admissions to intensive care units.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is pressing the government to ease the rules for theatres, cinemas and other cultural venues so that patrons can return home later, with details on the rules in the capital expected later Friday.
Restaurant owners have also complained bitterly about a measure they say makes little sense given the strict social distancing rules they have already applied, and noting that groups of less than six can still gather for lunch.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in the 50 years I’ve been here,” said Stain Roman, manager of La Mere Buonavista restaurant in Marseille, another city facing the curfew was quoted as saying by AFP.
Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed Thursday that the curfew requires nearly all businesses would have to shut their doors, except for essential services, with “everybody home from 9 to 6.”
A signed attestation or an electronic version downloaded to a phone will be needed for people walking their dogs or other exceptions, or risk a fine of 135 euros ($160) — the same as during the two-month lockdown during the height of the pandemic.
That prompted the French cinemas federation to warn of “extremely serious” consequences for the sector, urging authorities to let people return later for films that end after 9:00 pm.
Officials have also outlawed wedding celebrations and other parties in public venues as well as student parties, and urged people to limit gatherings in private homes to six people as well.