France Braces for Lockdown as Deaths Up10/29 06:26
PARIS (AP) -- French doctors expressed relief but business owners were in
despair as France prepared Thursday to shut down again for a month to try to
put the brakes on a fast-moving fall coronavirus outbreak.
Shoppers at a Paris farmers' market said Thursday they were ready to
restrict their freedoms given the rising number of virus-related deaths and
COVID-19 patients filling French hospitals.
The new lockdown is gentler than what France saw in the spring, but still a
shock to restaurants and other non-essential businesses that have been ordered
to close their doors in one of the world's biggest economies.
French schools will stay open this time, to reduce learning gaps and allow
parents to keep working. Farmer' markets, parks and factories can also continue
operating, officials said.
French lawmakers are voting Thursday on the new restrictions announced by
President Emmanuel Macron, which are set to come into effect at midnight. The
lower house of parliament is dominated by Macron's centrist party, so approval
is virtually guaranteed. The prime minister will lay out details of the
virus-fighting plan Thursday evening.
Dr. Eric Caumes, head of the infectious and tropical disease department at
Paris' Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, said Thursday on BFM television that the new
restrictions are "an admission of failure" of the government's prevention
efforts. He urged tougher restrictions.
The head of France's main business lobby MEDEF, Geoffroy Roux de Bzieux,
said on Europe-1 radio Thursday that "shutting businesses that are not
responsible for contamination is a mistake" that could drive many into
bankruptcy. He claimed it was a gift to internet retailer Amazon, "the big
winner from confinement."
COVID patients now fill 60% of French intensive care units, and France is
reporting tens of thousands of new cases daily. Authorities reported 244
virus-related deaths in a single day Wednesday, for a total of 35,785 since the
pandemic began, the third-highest toll in Europe after Britain and Italy.