An estate agents' letting sign board stands in front of a vacant shop in Paris, France, January 14 2021. Picture: REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER
An estate agents' letting sign board stands in front of a vacant shop in Paris, France, January 14 2021. Picture: REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER

Paris  — France will strengthen border controls and bring forward its night curfew by two hours to 6pm for at least a fortnight as it tries to slow the spread of coronavirus infections, the government said on Thursday.

France has the seventh highest death toll in the world and the government is particularly worried by the more-transmissible coronavirus variant first detected in Britain, which now accounts for about 1% of new cases.

The revised curfew will come into effect on Saturday. From Monday, all people travelling to France from outside the EU  will have to show a negative Covid-19 test and self-isolate for a week upon arrival.

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said financial support for businesses was being increased to up to €200,000 a month and would last as long as needed. He said the additional support would cost €4bn a month.

Companies which had received state-guaranteed loans would receive an additional year to pay them back, he said.

A new protocol for EU countries will be worked on ahead of a European summit on January 21, Prime Minister Jean Castex told a news conference.

"We must do everything to prevent this variant from spreading and ensure that it does not become the dominant variant," Castex said.

France reported a sharp rise in Covid-19 hospitalisations on Thursday. There were 21,228 new confirmed cases, fewer than the 23,852 on Wednesday, while health ministry data showed that 282 people had died from the virus in hospitals, up from 229 on Wednesday. The total death toll stood at 69,313 and the cumulative number of cases stood at 2,851,670.

"The situation doesn't require that we impose a new lockdown," Castex said. But he said the government would be swift to order a new confinement if the epidemic worsened.

France will test more than 1-million school pupils a month to help keep schools open. Sanitary protocols will be tightened in school canteens and indoor school sports will be suspended.

The vaccine rollout was being widened further to include citizens of any age with underlying health issues, Castex said.

Health minister Olivier Veran told the news conference about 318,000 people had now been inoculated and that the country was on track to deliver more than 1 million Covid-19 shots by the end of the month.

France was slower than neighbours such as Britain and Germany to deploy the vaccine. 


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