France announces 6pm curfew amid fears of UK COVID variant spreading across the country

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Connor Parker
·3 min read
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French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the new restrictions on Thursday. (AP)
French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the new restrictions on Thursday. (AP)

France will enforce a 6pm nationwide curfew to combat the spread of COVID-19 over fears of the UK variant getting out of control in the country.

Prime Minister Jean Castex told a press conference on Thursday the planned 8pm curfew would be brought forward to 6pm and would last until 6am.

The curfew will be in effect from Saturday for at least 15 days and people will face fines if they are found outside past those times.

Castex also told the news conference that there was no need for a new national lockdown for now but and that if the pandemic gets out of hand, France will lock down again.

He added the government would do all it could to avoid shutting down schools and vowed to ramp up testing for teachers and pupils.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex, left, alongside French Health Minister Olivier Veran. (AP)
French Prime Minister Jean Castex, left, alongside French Health Minister Olivier Veran. (AP)

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He described the current state of the pandemic in France as "worrying", with the infection rate at a high plateau and pressure on hospitals at a high level.

During the press conference, Castex said the tighter curfew had worked in the places it was already implemented.

Part of the reason for France’s tightening of rules was because of the new variant of COVID-19 which originated in the UK.

When the British government went public about the variant, referred to as le variant anglais in France, in December last year the French government closed its border to the UK.

The ensuing chaos as freight was stuck in Dover caused a huge amount of disruption in the UK with routes only allowed to open again after an agreement was reached between the two governments.

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Travel between the UK and Europe is still heavily restricted because of the new variant of COVID.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran said around 1 to 1.5 per cent of new cases of COVID in the country are the new UK variant.

He said the new variant was between 30-70% more infectious and warned it could spread quickly among children.

“We must do everything to prevent this variant from spreading in France,” Veran told the press conference.

Castex also said any new arrivals in France must have a negative COVID test to gain entry to the country.

France has tentatively been exiting a lockdown that lasted from October to the middle of December over the past few weeks, but rising infections have put much of it on hold.

The reopening of cultural centres like cinemas and theatres, scheduled for 7 January was postponed and the reopening of bars, restaurants and gyms has also been pushed back into at least February.

Case numbers have been rising in recent days in France and weekly average figures have risen from roughly 13,000 a day in December to above 18,000 a day in January.

Read more: COVID cases declining in most areas of England as lockdown begins to have an impact

The coronavirus has claimed more than 69,000 lives in France, the seventh-highest death toll in the world.

France has the highest count of COVID-19 cases in Western Europe and the fifth in the world, with 2,830,442 in total.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has been stable at 24,000 to 25,500 for five weeks.

In the UK, there are over 33,000 patients in hospital with COVID-19 and the number has been rising sharply in recent days.

The UK has suffered over 84,000 deaths from COVID-19 and fifth highest in the world.

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