French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered his country into its third national lockdown, saying schools will shut down for another three weeks.
Mr. Macron announced the new restrictions on Wednesday as he sought to push back a third wave of COVID-19 infections which has threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
Addressing his countrymen on national television, Mr. Macron said with the death toll nearing 100,000 and intensive care units in the hardest-hit regions at breaking point, he was now forced to abandon his goal of keeping France open to protect the economy.
A slower-than-planned vaccine roll-out had also made the new restrictions all the more necessary.
“We will lose control if we do not move now,” the president said.
His announcement means that movement restrictions already in place for more than a week in the capital, Paris, and some northern and southern regions, will now apply to the whole country for at least a month, from Saturday.
Mr. Macron also said schools will close for three weeks after this weekend.
First, learning will be done remotely for a week after this weekend. Then, schools will go on a two-week holiday, which for most of the country will be earlier than scheduled.
Thereafter, nursery and primary pupils will return to school while middle and high school pupils continue distance learning for an extra week.
Describing the new measures as “the best solution to slow down the virus”, Mr. Macron said France had succeeded in keeping its schools open for longer during the pandemic than many neighbours.
Daily new infections in France have doubled since February to average nearly 40,000, according to a recent Reuters report, which also says the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care has breached 5,000, exceeding the peak hit during a six-week-long lockdown late last year.