French Nobel economists urge Advent lockdown 'to save Christmas'

Paris (AFP) –


Two Nobel Prize-winning economists on Saturday urged France to consider an Advent lockdown so that family Christmas celebrations can go ahead with reduced risk of coronavirus transmission.

Such a "clear, uniform and transparent" option would reduce infection dangers for the most vulnerable people including the elderly, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee wrote in an op-ed for daily Le Monde.

The married couple, who won the Nobel jointly in 2019 for their work on reducing poverty, suggested "a nationwide lockdown during the Advent period from December 1 to 20".

Duflo and Banerjee suggested that their calendar would have a limited impact on schools and be less economically harmful than "cancelling Christmas" altogether -- or than a harsher lockdown later if year's-end festivities triggered a wave of infections.

If the plan went ahead, "people could be encouraged to do their Christmas shopping in November", the pair said.

With new daily cases rising sharply, the government could otherwise find itself forced to lock people down over the Christmas period, or even to "ban travel and family gatherings", they warned.

France has reacted to the swift re-emergence of Covid-19 hotspots by reimposing restrictions like earlier closing for bars on 12 large towns and cities, including the capital Paris.

Still harsher measures in Marseille, with bars and restaurants closed altogether, have triggered protests from the hospitality industry.