France orders stricter COVID-19 rules amid new variant fears

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PARIS, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) — French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced a new series of stricter COVID-19 rules — among them an earlier nationwide curfew — as the pandemic “is under control” but remains “worrying” because of the new rapidly spreading variants.

Speaking at a press conference, Castex said that a night-time ban on people’s movement, in force since mid-December, would be brought forward by two hours across the national territory. The earlier curfew has already in place in 25 out of the country’s 101 departments.

Starting from Saturday, the country’s 67 million inhabitants are ordered to stay at home from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. for at least two weeks. Permissions will be available for those who have health emergencies and those who work at night, he added.

Besides, all non-European travelers arriving in France would have to present a negative COVID-19 test less than 72 hours before boarding their flights. They would have to self-quarantine for seven days and then take a second test, he added.

The French premier stressed that the emergence of more contagious coronavirus strains was particularly worrying.

On Thursday, France’s Public Health Agency counted 66 new infections of VOC 202012/01 (the variant first detected in the UK) and three new cases of 501Y.V2 (the variant first reported in South Africa).

Castex, however, added that “the situation is under control” compared to other European countries and that there is no need, at this stage, to issue a third stay-at-home order.

“The situation doesn’t require that we impose a new lockdown. But if we observe a strong epidemic deterioration, we would be led without delay to new confinement,” he said.

Castex said the new measures will “lead us to devote all our forces to the vaccination campaign. It offers us a prospect of hope.”

On Thursday, 71,049 people in France received the first dose. A total of 318,216 inhabitants have got the shot since Dec. 27 when the country launched its campaign.

“The sooner we vaccinate the most vulnerable, the sooner our hospitals will be spared the risk of being overwhelmed,” Castex told reporters, adding that the government aims to vaccinate more than one million people by the end of January.

As of Thursday, France has tallied 2,851,670 COVID-19 infections, after 21,228 new cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours.

Health authorities recorded 282 new deaths, bringing the toll to 69,313. Hospital admission and the number of critically ill patients stood at 25,017 and 2,726 respectively.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in some countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 236 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide — 63 of them in clinical trials — in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Jan. 12. Enditem¬†

 

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