France’s hospital crisis to continue for MONTH as Covid cases spiral ahead of new lockdown

Emmanuel Macron discusses the vaccine rollout in France

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Last night, Emmanuel Macron ordered France into a third national lockdown and said schools would close for three weeks in a desperate bid to fight back against a new wave of Covid infections that threatens to once again overwhelm health services. The death toll from Covid is quickly nearing 100,000, with ICUs in the hardest-hit regions at breaking point. France has seen daily new Covid infections double since February to average nearly 40,000.

The number of people to have so far died in intensive care also surged past 5,000 earlier this week, exceeding the peak hit during the six-week second lockdown enforced late last year.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran said: “We could reach a peak of the epidemic in seven to 10 days if all goes according to plan.

“Then we need two extra weeks to reach a peak in intensive care units (ICUs) that could occur at the end of April.”

Last night, Mr Macron was forced to abandon his goal of keeping the country open as a way of protecting France’s fragile economy.

The 43-year-old had refused to cave to demands for a third large-scale lockdown, believing it could be easier to guide France out of the pandemic without locking the country down again in order give the economy more time to recover from a disastrous 2020.

But the new announcement from the President means rules restricting the movement of citizens for more than a week in France, as well as in some northern and southern regions, will now apply to the whole country from Saturday for at least a month.

He warned in a televised address to the nation: “We will lose control if we do not move now.”

Mr Macron also said schools would close for three weeks after this weekend, departing from his pledge to safeguard France’s education from the pandemic.

Learning for schoolchildren will take place remotely for a week, after which schools go on a two-week holiday.

Following that period, nursery and primary pupils will return to school, while middle and high school pupils will continue remote learning for an additional week.

The French President said: “It is the best solution to slow down the virus.”

France’s latest lockdown highlights the true consequences of the EU’s dreadfully slow rollout of Covid vaccines for its 27 member states.

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The UK, which completed its full departure from the bloc at the end of last year, has already vaccinated nearly half of its entire population against Covid.

Britain is already easing itself out of its current lockdown, with the economy set to receive a huge boost when non-essential retail reopens on April 12.

In contrast, France’s vaccination programme has stuttered from one disaster to the next, triggered by a war of words between the EU and vaccine maker AstraZeneca over product and supply issues.

Mr Macron had hoped France’s vaccine rollout programme would significantly reduce the number of people falling gravely ill.

But three months on, it is now only starting to pick up some pace, with just 12 percent of the population receiving a vaccine dose.

The French President has now said people over the age of 60 would be eligible for a vaccine jab from the middle of this month, with those in their fifties eligible a month later.

He added the aim for 30 million adults to be inoculated by mid-June remains the same.

Mr Macron said the newly-enforced lockdown and an accelerated vaccination programme should allow the country to gradually begin reopening again from mid-May.

This would begin with museums and the outdoor terraces of bars and restaurants, which would however have to follow stricter rules.

The French President has now said people over the age of 60 would be eligible for a vaccine jab from the middle of this month, with those in their fifties eligible a month later.

He added the aim for 30 million adults to be inoculated by mid-June remains the same.

Mr Macron said the newly-enforced lockdown and an accelerated vaccination programme should allow the country to gradually begin reopening again from mid-May.

This would begin with museums and the outdoor terraces of bars and restaurants, which would however have to follow stricter rules.

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