French PM warns lockdown will not be lifted ‘in one go’

A French police officer wearing a protective face mask checks on a driver on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice as a lockdown is imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in France on March 29, 2020.
A French police officer wearing a protective face mask checks on a driver on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice as a lockdown is imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in France on March 29, 2020. REUTERS - ERIC GAILLARD

France is likely to unwind its nationwide coronavirus lockdown gradually rather than in one go, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe told parliament on Wednesday while the interior minister noted 359,000 fines for violating the lockdown had been issued since lockdown began in mid-March.

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"It is likely that we are not heading towards a general deconfinement in one go and for everyone," Philippe told parliament by videoconference. 

The French government has ordered people to stay confined in their homes except for essential outings from March 17 until at least April 15. Philippe did not indicate when the government might start to ease or lift the lockdown.

Earlier on Wednesday, France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said some 5.8 million checks have been carried out and 359,000 fines issued since the lockdown started on March 17.

03:05

'We must stand strong'

As the medical crisis escalates, a court in Calais in the country's north also sentenced a 20-year-old man to two months in prison after he was caught eight times without the self-certified document all residents are required to show if they leave the house for critical business.

This can include essential shopping, going to the doctor, walking the dog, a quick jog, and going to work for those in critical fields.

In Paris on Tuesday, a court sentenced a 22-year-old man to 105 hours of community service, also for repeatedly violating the lockdown.

Even with train and plane traffic slashed to a minimum, authorities fear a holiday exodus and the minister said controls will be stepped up on the roads and at train stations and airports.

"Confinement is a strain for families, I know, but we must stand strong," Castaner said.

More than 22,700 people are hospitalised for Covid-19 in France, with 5,565 in intensive care.

A record 509 deaths from the coronavirus were registered in France in the previous 24 hours with the total death toll now at 4,032.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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