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France extends coronavirus restrictions nationwide, closes schools

by editor

PARIS — Lockdown-like restrictions will apply across France and schools will be closed for three weeks in April in an attempt to contain the third wave of the coronavirus, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday evening.

“You know we have done everything to make these decisions as late as possible,” said Macron, addressing the nation on television. “These last few weeks, we have faced a new deal,” he added, referring to the spread of new variants.

“We have a entered a race [between] on the one side the deployment of vaccination [and] on the other the spread in all of Europe of a new form of virus,” he said, referring to the variant originating in the U.K., which he called “an epidemic within the epidemic.”

His government has issued more restrictions on several occasions since the end of January, but always stopped short of imposing a full lockdown — a word Macron avoided on Wednesday.

Starting on Saturday, the strict measures already in use in parts of the country — including the Parisian region of Ile-de-France and much of the north — will be extended to apply to all of continental France and Corsica. These include the closing of non-essential shops and a 10-kilometer limit on non-essential travel in addition to an existing countrywide 7 p.m. curfew.

Pupils will not return to school in person next week, with middle and high schoolers shifting to online education. Nurseries and primary schools will physically reopen first on April 26, followed by secondary education the following week.

Macron also offered an unusual mea culpa on his government’s handling of the pandemic.

“We’ve made mistakes” in handling the coronavirus crisis, he said.

Specifically on vaccines, “there were delays, there were things that we have corrected,” he added. His government has faced backlash for the sluggish start of its vaccination campaign.

But, Macron added, “we will become the world’s first continent in terms of vaccine production.” He reiterated his commitment to have every French adult who wants it vaccinated by the end of the summer.

Macron also said he would announce a much-awaited roadmap for the reopening for cultural sites, restaurants and cafés from mid-May.

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