Starting this Saturday, France will undergo a limited lockdown for four weeks wherein schools, colleges and non-essential shops will remain shut, the president said Wednesday in a televised address.

Extending the enhanced restrictions currently in force in the 19 high-risk departments to the national-level, Emmanuel Macron said that in recent weeks, the country is facing a new situation concerning the spread of COVID-19. “We have entered a race of speed,” he noted, while introducing restrictions which comprise France’s third national lockdown, albeit flexible than the previous occasions in last March and October.

Nearly 44% of intensive care patients are now under 65 years old, he recalled, adding that many of them are young people. He asked people to mobilize and make additional efforts “to protect the life in the present — the sick people — and life in the future — our children.”

According to the health data as of March 30, there were 30,702 new infections and 5,072 patients in intensive care units of hospitals in the country. The total death toll has crossed the mark of 95,337, with 381 new fatalities.

In the coming days, the number of beds under intensive care units will be increased to 10,000 from the current capacity of 5,000.

Under new national restrictions, nurseries, schools, and high schools will be closed for three to four weeks, travel will be limited to a radius of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) for daily outings, and curfew will be in effect from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time. Only those commercial establishments offering essential services, food, and groceries will be permitted to open.

While admitting to having “made mistakes” in the management of the health crisis, Macron said the administration has learned and got better every time. The main challenge ahead, he recalled, was to speed up the vaccination. An estimated 11,387,000 people have received the vaccine against COVID-19 and 8,516,790 people received at least one injection.

Macron declared that the vaccination campaign will be non-stop, without a weekend break and include, in total, 250,000 professionals, doctors, pharmacists, firefighters, nurses, and veterinarians, in the effort.

Injecting optimism in the ongoing bleak scenario which has persisted since last October with lockdowns and curfews, Macron promised a reopening schedule from mid-May.

Restaurants and cafes, cultural and sports places, will be allowed to reopen gradually with certain strict rules, he assured.

Earlier, the Macron administration had promised a return to normal by mid-April, but the current health situation contradicts the forecast made in March.

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