The French prime minister on Thursday announced a semi-lockdown of adversely affected regions and the resumption of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.
“The progression of the epidemic is accelerating markedly,” said Jean Castex as he unveiled the measures in a weekly news conference.
In the Ile-de-France and Hauts-de-France departments, including Paris and Calais, respectively, “the 2nd wave has peaked and exceeded,” and elsewhere the “situation is deteriorating,” he said as France rapidly advances toward a third wave of infections.
Castex said the new restrictions were designed to be less stringent and more flexible than previous lockdowns in March and October last year.
Sixteen departments, mainly in the northernmost regions of Ile-de-France and Haute-de-France and in the south Seine-Maritime, Eure, and Alpes-Maritimes, will be placed under confinement for one month.
Schools will remain open and residents can go outside for relaxation, walks and worship. But commercial shops, establishments and malls will be closed except for those selling essential food, groceries, books and music.
The rest of the country will have a relaxed curfew beginning at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
For the second day in a row, authorities reported high numbers of daily infections — 34,998 and 268 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Data showed 38,501 new cases and 246 deaths on Wednesday.
Castex also said that France will resume administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was suspended briefly on Tuesday as other European countries expressed concerns about blood clotting post-inoculation.
Following a green light from the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization that there is no link between the vaccine and the severe disorder, Castex said France will update its recommendation regarding the vaccine and will administer shots Friday.
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