Macron announces French schools closure and nationwide restrictions in limited lockdown

French President Macron under pressure to lock down as Covid-19 hospitalizations soar

Macron said restrictions already applying in the Paris region and elsewhere will be extended next week to the whole country, for at least one month.

He described the measures as "reinforced breaking" and they will include schools temporarily closing for three weeks.

"We have lost control of the epidemic".

In a televised address to the nation, Macron said new efforts are needed as "the epidemic is accelerating".

"These last weeks we are facing a new situation".

The move is a departure from the government's policy in recent months, which has focused on regionalized restrictions.

Non-essential shops were closed and travel restrictions imposed, but small groups were allowed to meet outside and schools allowed to remain open.

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to speed up the country's vaccination campaign.

Alberta spent more than $15M on COVID-19-related ad campaigns
About 1,400 of the active cases are linked to the variants of concern, which make up 20 per cent of the total, she added. Across the province, 284 people were being treated in hospital for the disease, including 59 in intensive care beds.

"We have done all we can to take this decision as late as possible", Mr Macron said.

More than 40 ICU and emergency doctors in Paris published an op-ed Sunday in the newspaper Journal du Dimanche, warning that ICUs in the region would reach capacity in the next two weeks if restrictions were not tightened.

But as of Tuesday, more than 28,000 people were being treated in hospital for Covid-19 in France, including 5,072 in intensive care units (ICU), according to French health ministry data.

Much of Europe has struggled to contain a third wave of Covid-19, in part fueled by new variants that early studies suggest are more transmissible and possibly deadlier than previous ones.

Bed capacity in critical care units will be increased to 10 000, Macron said.

More than 5,000 patients were in intensive care on Tuesday, the first time in 11 months that the figure has been that high, while daily new infections have doubled since February to almost 40,000. "I solemnly ask you to reinforce without delay the sanitary measures... we must lockdown".

Short of a full lockdown, Macron is running out of alternatives to make a major dent in the renewed surge of infections that has led to growing questions about his government's virus strategies. With presidential elections scheduled for 2022, Macron is having to weigh both political and health considerations.

All of France's restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas and museums have been closed since October.

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