France on Friday entered the second national lockdown imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Prime Minister Jean Castex released details of the new confinement on Thursday afternoon.

“There is no other solution,” said Castex.

Only essential businesses are allowed to remain open, including grocery and smaller food stores, hospital and medical establishments, petrol stations, and tobacco shops.

All non-essential businesses will close until Dec. 1. Restaurants, cafes, and bars, which are thought to be one of the main spreaders of the virus, will remain shut.

Schools — from nursery through university — will re-open Monday after this weekend’s All-Saints holiday, with distance learning only at schools that desire it.

Leaving the house may only happen for an hour and within a kilometer of one’s residence, and only for limited reasons: to go to work that cannot be done from home, for medical reasons, to visit a vulnerable person or child, to walk a pet, or for exercise.

All citizens must again carry a form filled out before leaving home with name, address, date and place of birth, and date and hour of outing. A €135 fine will be issued in case of violation.

The new form — both digital and paper — became available Thursday on the Ministry of the Interior website for download. A new form must be filled out each time one leaves the house.   

State of emergency

Movement is one of the hot-button areas of concern for the French, evidenced in the fact that traffic jams were seen across the capital on Thursday as Parisians tried to get to country homes ahead of the lockdown.

Crossing into France from EU member countries — those in the Schengen Zone — will be allowed but not from those that lie outside.

Restrictions on any international travel beyond what is already in place have yet to be determined.

Health officials will take stock of the situation every two weeks to assess whether confinement is working and if the time period needs to be extended or could be reduced.

The Senate voted on Friday to extend the state of emergency until Jan. 31, 2021. The National Assembly had already cast their vote last Saturday, but for an extension until Feb. 16, 2021. 

Another vote will put the issue to rest next week, according to a report by daily Le Monde.

Health and government officials were left little choice but to enforce a new lockdown as infections spiraled upwards over the past few months, some days exponentially.

On Oct. 23 the number of cases went over 1 million mark, as a record-breaking 52,010 daily cases were registered on the same day.

Bruno Le Maire, the economy minister, announced on Friday the extension of €15 billion in aid per month during the crisis. The solidarity fund will go to companies with more than 50 employees, and a tax credit to businesses who wave one month’s rent.

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