France to avoid new lockdown but close borders to non-EU countries

French PM Jean Castex speaks following a Sanitary Defence Council on January 29, 2021, at the Élysée Palace in Paris, France.
French PM Jean Castex speaks following a Sanitary Defence Council on January 29, 2021, at the Élysée Palace in Paris, France. © Benoit Tessier, AFP
8 min

France is closing its borders to people arriving from outside the European Union starting Sunday to try to stop the spread of new variants of the coronavirus and to avoid a third lockdown.

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French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the measure Friday night after an emergency government health security meeting at the presidential palace, warning of a “great risk” from the new variants.

All those arriving from other EU countries will be required to produce a negative virus test, he said. France will also close all large shopping centres starting Sunday and limit travel to and from its overseas territories.

Castex ordered an increase in police checks of those who violate France’s 12-hour-a-day curfew, hold secret parties or reopen restaurants in defiance of a closure order in place since October.

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Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths have been rising steadily but not sharply in recent weeks. Many doctors have been urging a new nationwide shutdown like those imposed in several other European countries.

Castex said the measures are an attempt to avoid the economic cost of a third lockdown. He added that "the next few days will be decisive" in terms of any possible new restrictions.

Currently, more than 60 percent of intensive care beds are occupied by coronavirus patients. France has reported more than 75,000 deaths, seventh highest in the world.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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