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French officials weigh lockdown as they meet about next steps

Looking ahead, all eyes are on France, where a government minister recently warned the pace of infections might be as high as 100k/day, 2x the official total. On Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Jean Castex (Macron’s virus point man) and other top officials are meeting to discuss new nationwide restrictions, possibly including another brief lockdown, something that Macron has said would be ‘unavoidable’ if the condition deteriorates beyond a certain point.

The Local published a handy guide to the different types of measures reportedly under consideration, which, at this point, is either localized lockdowns (Paris, Lyon and Marseille and possiby other cities and metro areas) or a nationwide closure (text below courtesy of the The Local).

1. Total lockdown

The first option is a total, nationwide lockdown such as the one France imposed in March. Back then, the whole country was confined to their homes and only allowed out for short periods to run essential errands such as grocery shopping, medical appointments and walking the dog.

French political commentators say this is the least likely scenario because of the high economic and psychological costs that would entail.

“I think that Macron is desperate to avoid another complete lockdown – for economic reasons but also for reasons of public order. A second “confinement” would be resisted much more widely than the first,” The Local’s political commentator John Lichfield said.

Delfraissy said the main goals of the government was to protect France’s elderly and vulnerable and maintain economic activity, while at the same time reducing the spread of the virus.

If the government were to impose a new lockdown, it would likely be adapted to the lessons drawn from this spring, avoiding to close down parts of society where the health gains were small compared to the economic and social costs – such as primary schools.

“It would probably allow for a certain level of educational activity and a certain number of economic activity,” Delfraissy said, adding that this kind of lockdown “could be set in place for a shorter period of time if it were to be introduced now.”

He also said this kind of lockdown would likely be followed by a period of curfew such as the one in place now.

2. Local lockdowns

Another option is to continue the government’s strategy to adapt measures to local conditions and introduce lockdowns in the country’s hardest hit areas.

This would target areas with high levels of spread and areas where hospital struggle to cope with the pressure of new COVID-19 patients, such as Paris, Marseille and Lyon.

“I’d rather have local lockdowns now than a nationwide lockdown at Christmas,” Damien Abad, parliament chief for the rightwing opposition Les Republicains, told France Info radio.

3. Weekend lockdowns

The third option would be a lighter and adapted version of lockdown, which could include measures such as a weekend confinement and an earlier curfew than the 9pm curfew currently in place in roughly half of the country.

“This would be much tougher than the curfew currently in place,” Delfraissy said about that option.

Such a strategy has received support from a group of doctors in Lyon, who called for a 7pm curfew and a weekend lockdown.

“The situation is serious and we cannot afford to take half-measures any longer,” they said in a press statement.

This strategy could also entail closing secondary schools, high schools and universities, such as suggested by Antoine Flahault, Director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, which monitors the development of COVID-19 in the world.

We already have taken lockdown measures, they might be sufficient,” he told French media.

Meanwhile, France’s small businesses are understandably anxious. On Tuesday morning, the CPME confederation of small and medium-sized businesses warned that a partial or total lockdown could risk provoking an economic collapse. Companies are “much more fragile than in March” and many, especially the smallest, would be incapable of taking on additional debt, the CPME says in statement on Tuesday “We would risk seeing a collapse in the French economy, a sort of unprecedented third wave, this time an economic one,” CPME says.

The French government is reportedly mulling a localized lockdowns for the Paris, Lyon and Marseille metro areas, which would include 7pm curfew, a public transport shutdown and closing non-essential shops, while reports noted that a three-week lockdown could start from Friday evening with the details to be announced on Wednesday (Source: Bild).

While there is still more unknowns than knowns about what lies ahead for France, one thing is certain: the government will need to decide quickly.

Macron is under pressure from hospitals and academics, several of whom are calling for swift and radical measures.

Source: The Local