Covid-19: France, Germany impose lockdown as a second wave is expected
Two of Europe’s biggest economies are reinstating some form of national lockdown, as the continent confronts a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.
France will go back into a nationwide lockdown starting this week to try to contain the COVID-19 pandemic that is again threatening to spiral out of control, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an address to the nation on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the government’s decision to impose a limited lockdown in a tense speech to lawmakers in the Bundestag on Thursday.
What did Macron say?
In France, people will still be allowed to go to work if their employer deems it impossible for them to do the job from home, and – in a departure from the previous lockdown in March – schools will remain open, Macron said in his address.
“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated,” Macron said. “We are all in the same position: overrun by a second wave which we know will be harder, more deadly than the first.”
“I’ve decided that we need to return to the lockdown which halted the virus,” Macron added.
Under the new measures – which come into force on Friday and will last until December 1 – people will have to stay in their homes except to buy essential goods, seek medical attention, or use their daily one-hour allocation of exercise.
Restaurants, cafes, and shops not selling essential goods will have to close down for at least the next two weeks.
Anyone leaving their home will have to carry a special document justifying being outside, which can be checked by police, Macron said.
Addressing the French nation, he said: “I have faith in us, in you, faith in our ability to overcome this challenge … We will get over this if we are united, and we are united.”
France’s death toll, at more than 35,000, is the seventh highest in the world, according to Reuters News Agency data.
A Difficult winter waits for Germany
In a speech that was regularly interrupted by shouts from several German lawmakers, Merkel said the current rate of infection poses a massive threat to the country’s health system.
“Such a dynamic would overwhelm our intensive care units within a few weeks,” she said. Acting only after hospital beds are full “would be too late.”
“The winter will be difficult. Four long difficult months, but it will end,” she said.
Merkel said she understood “frustration” over the pandemic and the new restrictions, but she urged lawmakers and the public to do their part to slow the spread.
“Freedom isn’t being able to do whatever you want,” she said. “Freedom is taking responsibility.”
Meanwhile, AfD parliamentary leader Alexander Gauland accused Merkel’s government of “wartime propaganda.”
“We have to strike a balance, even at the cost of people dying,” the far-right politician said.
Under the new measures, Germany will close Bars, restaurants, fitness studios, movie theaters, cultural and sports facilities.
Outdoor gatherings will also be curbed to members from no more than two households with a maximum of 10 people.
Meanwhile, schools and daycare centers will largely remain open.
The lockdown measures are currently slated to run until the end of November.
Germany logged a new record in daily coronavirus cases with over 16,700 cases within 24 hours. An estimated 75% of cases cannot be traced anymore, making it difficult to contain the spread.