France steps up travel restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise


The French government warned Friday of increased police checks to enforce travel restrictions in place in Paris and several other regions as coronavirus cases continue to soar around the country.

Checks at train stations, airports and motorway toll booths will “increase from today”, the prime minister’s office said, describing the situation as “critical” with the arrival of a third wave of infections.

The move came after France placed three more departments in limited lockdown, with around 20 million people, including those in the Paris region, prohibited from travelling further than 10 kilometres (six miles) from home except for essential reasons.

There is also a nightly curfew in place nationwide starting at 7:00 pm.

Daily cases in France have nearly doubled since the start of the month, reaching over 45,000 on Thursday, with the number of people in intensive care now standing at 4,766, not far from the peak during the second wave in November.

In Paris, the pressure on hospitals is even greater, with the bulk of non-essential surgeries being cancelled to free up beds amid the rapid spread of the more contagious British variant, which now causes the majority of infections nationwide.

Authorities said Friday that 304 people had died of Covid in the past 24 hours, bring the total to 93,709.

French President Emmanuel Macron has come under fire for going against the advice of scientific experts and his health minister at the end of January when he decided not to impose a national lockdown.

“These coming weeks will be difficult. We’ll take effective measures at the right time and to my mind, there are no taboos,” Macron said late Thursday.

“I have no mea culpa to issue, no regrets and no sense of a failure,” he added in defence of his decision to keep the country in a state of semi-openness at the end of January.

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