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France announces partial COVID-19 lockdown for 16 regions

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-03-19 09:14

French Prime Minister Jean Castex adjusts his face mask as he delivers a news conference on the current French government strategy for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in Paris, France March 18, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

PARIS - French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced "new massive measures" to curb COVID-19 in the country's 16 worst-hit regions, including Paris and the northern region.

The new measures will enter into force at 12 midnight on Friday and will last four weeks, Castex said at his weekly press conference.

"The spread of the virus has accelerated significantly," he said. On Tuesday, he told the National Assembly that France had "entered a kind of third wave characterized by numerous variants."

He said that France's intensive care units are now treating younger COVID-19 patients with no underlying conditions, and hospitalizations last longer than during the previous coronavirus waves.

To stem the spread of the virus, in the country's 16 regions, only businesses selling essential goods and services will be allowed to open. Unlike during the nationwide lockdown in spring last year, nurseries, elementary and high schools will remain open, said Castex.

"It will be possible to leave home to go for a walk, to get some fresh air or to play sports during the day without any time limit but only with a certificate and on condition of staying within a 10-kilometer radius of home," he said.

On Thursday, France reported 34,998 new COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours, the second highest daily count since last November after Wednesday's 38,501. The cumulative number of cases reached 4,181,607, while the death toll rose by 268 to 91,679.

Hospital admissions increased by 75 to 25,389, while the number of those in intensive care units totaled 4,246, an increase of 27 from Wednesday.

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