PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced a curfew to be imposed on the Paris region and other major urban centers, to curb a rapid resurgence of the coronavirus.


French President Emmanuel Macron is imposing curfews in response to surging coronavirus infections, including nearly 27,000 new cases in a 24-hour period last weekend.  Ludovic Marin/Pool via AP

The curfew will require people to stay home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., Macron said. It will begin Saturday and last for at least four weeks. The cities included are Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Lille, Rouen and Saint-Etienne.

“Our goal must be to reduce private contacts, which are the most dangerous contacts, which is to say the moments when there’s a little slackening,” Macron said, in an interview with journalists broadcast live on French television.

France has seen a steady rise in new coronavirus infections since August, undermining progress made against the virus during a strict two-month lockdown in the spring.

The government has gradually imposed new restrictions, such as limits on restaurant capacity and hours of alcohol sales in hotspot areas.

Paris had been largely spared those measures, but alarms were raised on Saturday after the country recorded nearly 27,000 new cases in the previous 24-hour period, a record for France during the pandemic, with a worrying number of infections concentrated in the capital.

The numbers were somewhat lower on Wednesday but still high. The health ministry reported 22,500 cases in 24 hours and 6,000 new hospitalizations in the previous 7 days – 1,000 of those in intensive care.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo encouraged residents of the city to “remain united and apply the measures announced by the President of the republic, even if they are harsh. It’s a new challenge, and we will face it, together and in solidarity with health workers.”

Macron also urged that people restrict gatherings to no more than six individuals outside their families. He acknowledged the impact of such restrictions on young people in particular. “It’s hard to be 20 in 2020,” he said. “It’s hard.”

Although some public health experts questioned the efficacy of a nighttime lockdown on virus circulation – especially as so many French covid-19 clusters have been traced to workplaces – Macron was adamant this is the right course of action.

He said the government would do everything it could to ensure that restaurants and theaters – already hurting – would survive, including subsidizing workers who see their hours reduced. But he conceded there would be economic pain.

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