Paris streets empty as Covid-19 curfew takes effect amid warning of third wave of infection

Anyone breaking curfew is liable for a 135 euro fine. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) - Boutiques in the centre of the French capital shut early and shoppers hurried home to meet a new 8pm curfew that took effect on Tuesday (Dec 15) to try to prevent a new spike in Covid-19 infections.

"I completely lost track of time and didn't realise it was so late," said 40-year-old Paris resident Jun, who was in the Opera district just before curfew. "I'm going to head home."

Around the usually bustling shopping district, shop fronts were dark and of the few people on the streets, most were heading towards the metro station.

Tuesday brought new freedoms for people in France because it was the end of a stay-at-home order. This had meant that, around the clock, people could only venture out for a limited time and for essential trips, to shop, or to exercise.

But that was replaced instead with a nightly curfew. From 8pm until 6am people can only go out for work, on official business, or for medical reasons. Anyone breaking curfew is liable for a 135 euro (S$219) fine.

Officials have warned that they will be strictly enforcing the new rules. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday evening joined a police patrol in Yvelines, west of Paris, to check that people were complying.

"The government has decided to be particularly tough on unlawful parties," the minister said.

Infection rates in France have declined sharply since the peak of the second wave last month. But scientists warn of the risk of a third wave of infection if people let down their guard during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Patients in intensive care - the most important measure of a health system's ability to deal with the pandemic - also went down by 25 to 2,881, resuming a continuous decline since Nov 17.

That figure is still within the target level of 2,500 to 3,000 the government had set to decide the end of the lockdown that was put in place on Oct 30 and was lifted on Tuesday.

But because the number of daily new infections has failed to fall below the 5,000 threshold - another official target - the government has opted for a less extensive loosening of restrictive measures than initially planned.

Health authorities reported 11,532 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours, up from Monday's 3,063 but largely stable from Sunday's 11,533.

Case numbers generally dip on Mondays as there are fewer tests conducted on Sundays.

The number of people in France who have died from Covid-19 infections rose by 790 to 59,072, up from 371 on Monday. The cumulative number of cases in France now totals 2,391,447, the fifth highest in the world.

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