France tightens curfews as country passes 1 million Covid-19 cases

David Chazan
·2-min read
Measures taken by the French government to curb the disease have left many shops and bars closed - Chesnot/Getty Images
Measures taken by the French government to curb the disease have left many shops and bars closed - Chesnot/Getty Images

France is extending its 9pm curfew to more than two-thirds of the population as alarm grows over the rise in coronavirus cases and intensive care units fill up across Europe.

On Thursday France became the second European country after Spain to have had more than 1 million Covid-19 infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University in the US. France and Spain have both attributed more than 34,000 deaths to the virus.  

Sophie Wilmès, Belgium’s foreign minister and former prime minister, was taken into intensive care on Thursday after testing positive for Covid-19 at the weekend. 

Ms Wilmès, 45, led the country through the first six months of the pandemic. Belgium has one of the world’s highest per-capita coronavirus death rates.

In the past two weeks, it has recorded Europe’s second-highest number of infections per capita after the Czech Republic.

Coronavirus France Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus France Spotlight Chart - Cases default

From midnight on Friday, the curfew already in force in nine major French cities including Paris for the past week will be extended to another 38 departments, or regions.

It will apply to some 46 million people, more than 70 per cent of the country’s population.

“The coming weeks will be hard and the number of deaths will continue to rise,” said Jean Castex, the prime minister. “Our health services will be put to a severe test.”

Nearly two-thirds of intensive care beds are occupied by coronavirus patients in the Paris area.

Mr Castex acknowledged that the restrictions were “heavy” but warned that “much harder measures” could be imposed unless the spread of the virus is brought under control. He declined to specify if he was referring to lockdowns.

Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - cases default

After the failure of France’s first attempt at a test-and-trace app, the authorities launched a new version on Thursday.

The initial app was downloaded by only about 3 million people. Olivier Véran, the health minister, said that at least 10 or 15 million people would have to download the new version for it to become useful, citing the examples of the British and German apps.

Germany is also struggling with a dramatic increase in infections. It reported 11,200 new cases on Thursday, its highest ever daily tally.

Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, a federal health agency that helps develop coronavirus strategy, described the spread of the infection as “drastic”.

He said: “We are urgently appealing to the population to be committed to infection prevention.”