Paris will ban delivery and takeaway services for prepared food and alcohol between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Friday to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected a record number of 58 046 people nationally over 24 hours on Thursday.
The police prefecture also said the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks in public spaces would be banned at night starting on Friday.
President Emmanuel Macron imposed a new lockdown last month, forcing non-essential shops – such as those not selling basic foods or medicines – to close, and making people use signed documents to justify being out on the streets.
But a week into the lockdown, France still registers more than 40 000 new virus infections per day and intensive care units across the country are under stress as more than 4 200 ICU beds are now occupied by COVID-19 patients.
The second wave of coronavirus infections tearing across France will be more severe than the first experienced in the spring if it is allowed to continue spreading at the current rate, the country’s health minister said at a press conference.
France would see the number of COVID-19 sufferers in intensive care peak at 6 000 if the public complied with the new lockdown, or as many as 7 000 if the virus continued spreading as it is now with not everyone respecting the confinement rules, Health Minister Olivier Veran said.
Restaurants, closed under lockdown rules, are allowed to serve takeaway and to deliver, but the prefecture said that at nighttime many customers and food couriers are congregating, despite the need to limit social interaction.
“When you get people who are not playing by the rules of the game, and are therefore putting at risk the health of a large number of people, that is when you need to put in place new restrictions,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on BFM TV as she warned of restrictions on selling takeaway food and drink.
A French government source said this week that they had noted in Paris “clandestine parties, raves, private dinners” and felt stricter measures were needed.
New COVID-19 lockdowns and curbs have stirred resistance across Europe even as countries including France and Spain deal with record daily infections and hospitals under pressure.
The 58 046 record was almost 6 000 higher than the previous one, set on Monday, and a further 363 deaths were registered on Thursday, taking the country’s total death toll from the coronavirus to 39 037 while the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases stands at more than 1.6 million, the fifth-highest tally in the world.
The Paris region health authority said in a statement that 92% of the region’s ICU capacity is now occupied, with nearly 1 050 COVID-19 patients and 600 patients with other problems.
Gilles Pialoux, head of infectious diseases at the Paris Tenon hospital, told Reuters that the only way to reduce the current infection rate in France was to limit the circulation of people.
“We will probably have to forget about Christmas holidays in order to save 2021. This year, Christmas will be over Skype,” he said.