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Thursday, December 9, 2021

New lockdown is ‘the very last option’ for France, finance minister says as top doctor warns not doing so is ‘too big’ a risk

The French government remains divided on whether to implement a third national lockdown, with the country’s finance minister calling it “the very last option” which would be very harmful for France’s economy.

Speaking to RTL radio on Monday, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire argued that the existing 6pm to 6am curfew measures are delivering results in containing the virus. A full-blown lockdown, which would be the third one for France over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, must be implemented only when all the other options are exhausted.

“Lockdown can only be the very last option, when all the others have been used, because lockdown puts pressure on the morale of the French… it also puts pressure on public finances,” the minister stated.

A full lockdown would cost France’s economy around €15 billion ($18.1 billion) a month, while the existing curfew measures only cost around €6 billion, Le Maire said.

The finance minister’s assessment of how to handle the coronavirus situation, however, appears to be quite the opposite of what some of the country’s health experts believe. Speaking to BFMTV on Monday, Eric Caumes, the head of infectious diseases at the Paris hospital La Pitie-Salpetriere, said the government’s decision to stick to curfews instead of a full lockdown is a “big risk.” He also said the epidemic situation varies across the country, and that the situation in Paris is concerning.

We see the curve going up, so we are very worried.

A similar assessment of the situation was made by Health Minister Olivier Veran last week, when he argued that the curfew measures were no longer effective in battling the virus.

“Clearly, the effectiveness of the 6pm curfew is waning and it is not enough to reverse the virus,” he stated.

Despite the existing concerns, the government still opted to prolong the curfew on Friday, while introducing additional restrictions such as shutting its borders to all traffic to and from countries outside of the EU.

France remains among the worst coronavirus-hit nations, with more than 3.2 million cases registered since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 76,000 people have succumbed to the disease across the country.

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