Escalating COVID-19 cases coupled with limited vaccine rollout due to France and much of Europe pulling AstraZeneca shots has prompted the country to lock down Paris and parts of the north once again starting at midnight on Friday, March 19, Reuters reported.
French president Emmanuel Macron had resisted locking down the country since the end of January, despite dire warnings from scientists and calls by some in his administration to close down. Macron had said in the past that he would fight to keep the second-biggest economy in the eurozone open.
Jean Castex, Macron’s prime minister, said that 75 percent of the cases in this third wave of the coronavirus are the first variant, which is the most deadly. The country’s intensive care units are already close to capacity, especially in Paris, where over 400 new virus cases are diagnosed for every 100,000 people. “The epidemic is getting worse. Our responsibility now is to not let it escape our control,” Castex said in a news conference, per Reuters.
On Thursday, March 18 alone, France had 35,000 new cases. Paris has more coronavirus patients in the ICU now than it did during the peak of the second wave.
Castex told Reuters that the time to shut down is now. “Four weeks [is] the time required for the measures to generate a sufficient impact. [It is] the time we need to reach a threshold in the vaccination of the most vulnerable.”
The lockdowns include the temporary shuttering of barbers, clothing stores and furniture retailers, but bookstores and other essential businesses can remain open, as can school systems. In addition, people can exercise outside within a 6.2-mile radius of their home base. “Go outdoors, but not to party with friends,” the prime minister said.
Now that the European Medicines Agency has deemed the AstraZeneca vaccine safe, the French president said that the country will reinstate the inoculations. Castex announced that he would get the shot on Friday (March 19). “I am confident public trust in the vaccine will be restored,” he said, though he acknowledged it might take time.
Last week, Germany announced it was seeing a third wave of COVID-19 cases, and Italy said it will lock down the country over Easter weekend. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s public health agency, said there has been an uptick in cases by 20 percent over the week prior.