France will introduce an 8pm curfew from next week with the draconian measure set to stay for New Year’s Eve.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said that from Tuesday December 15, residents must stay at home between the hours of 8pm and 6am.
The only exception will be Christmas Eve, when people will be able to go out in groups of six.
Mr Castex said the tough rules were necessary as infection rates were not falling as fast as the government had hoped after a lockdown was imposed in late October.
‘We are not yet at the end of this second wave and we will not be on December 15,’ he said during a live TV address about the Coronavirus crisis on Thursday night.
Mr Castex also announced that museums, cinemas, concert halls and theatres will not reopen next week as originally planned.
Their reopening was contingent on the number of new cases of infection falling to around 5,000 a day – a threshold set by President Emmanuel Macron.
Though transmission rates are several times lower than they were at the peak of the second wave, France is currently recording an average of 11,368 new cases each day.
While it was always intended to replace the lockdown with a curfew, the one originally planned would have started at 9pm and not covered New Year’s Eve.
Mr Castex said: ‘I understand your weariness, your doubts, your suffering. I share them. But, first of all, I owe you truth and transparency over this epidemic, which is lasting longer than we would have liked.’
Bars and restaurants will remain closed at least until January 20.
Theatres, cinemas and museums are now scheduled to re-open at the beginning of January, Castex said.
The decision was criticised by some in the cultural world, with actor and director Phillipe Lellouche telling BFM TV: ‘We’re tired of not being given more consideration. Once more culture is being left on the side of the road.’
France has confirmed more than 2.3 million cases and nearly 57,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
On Thursday, the country recorded nearly 14,000 infections over the previous 24 hours.
This compares to around 60,000 new cases per day when the second lockdown was announced.
Castex said the decline in cases has slowed over the past several days adding: ‘We’re on a sort of plateau … We cannot let our guard down.’
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