Back in late December on the first day of the vaccine campaign, Olivier Véran spoke about it already... And now, as the incidence rates are skyrocketting all over the country, a third lockdown is indeed being considered by the government to curb the spread of the epidemic, including the UK variant, now found everywhere in France, and that is even more contagious than the other strains of the virus. "The hypothesis of lockdown is more and more likely" a governmental source said this Saturday January 23 to AFP.
"If in the coming days we see positive effects of 6 p.m. curfew, we might say we have another or two more weeks. But it is not likely to be enough" the source adds. According to BFMTV, three scenarios are being considered for this new lockdown.
The first one says lockdown could be implemented in two weeks' time, on the condition curfew instated in the country since mid-January has had positive effects. This is the government's best-case scenario.
The second one plans lockdown likely to November's, starting from the end of next week including schools remaining open, if curfew does not deliver expected outcomes as for the spread of the epidemic in France.
The last scenario is a total lockdown, like in March 2020 including the closure of schools. A scenario only considered as a last resort.
Other options are also on the table, according to Francetvinfo, the executive is considering to only confine people on weekends, as well as extend the Winter break for another week, make remote working compulsory for those who can and even only confine people at risk. Anyway, the decision is not likely to be made before results of 6 p.m. curfew are known.
Anyway, this new lockdown has been required by many French people... Many mayors such as Nancy mayor already asked the government to put the country back in lockdown back in late December 2020 as the coronavirus epidemic was breaking out again. "Countries are back in lockdown. There is no miracle solution. Regarding the situation in Grand Est, I suggest to quarantine locally, as it has been made at some point, or on a nationwide level. [...] We must be honest with our fellow citizens and tell them nothing is possible now. Let the French celebrate Christmas with their families and then quarantine from the 25th or 26th until the Holidays are over, naming January 3rd or 4th at first" Mathieu Klein told France Info.
Olivier Véran hears these requests, but does not wish to change plans for now. France's Health Minister has assured, on TF1, that "solutions are in the works, but they depend not on the call from a mayor or another, even though I thank them from paying interest in this issue, they depend on the health situation. There are too many cases in our country [...], but there is no epidemic breakout like in some neighboring countries that have had to emergency quarantine".
As the vaccination campaign is launched this Sunday December 27, Olivier Véran tells Journal du Dimanche: "We never rule out measures that could be necessary to protect people. It does not mean we have decided, but we are observing the situation hour by hour".
"The 5000-goal is fading away. And the pressure on the health system remains heavy, including 1,500 hospitalizations per day, tension that only slightly decreases in ICU" the Minister says, adding he is ready to make "necessary measures if the situation was to worsen".
Authorities fear a third wave past the Holidays, as the daily new case toll never decreases and even tends to increase: about 15,000 new cases per day. Far from the 5,000-daily-toll goal and several countries in Europe are rushing back to lockdown.
Furthermore, as new coronavirus strains have been found in the UK and South Africa, it has been reported in France too and makes people fear contaminations are not likely to decrease.
Of course, doctors are worried. Head of the ICU unit at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches (Hauts-de-Seine) Djillali Annane is mixed. As he tells Le Monde: "Strictly medically and sanitarily speaking, we should do like our neighbors, make stricter restrictions, like reconfining from December 26. But when it comes to mental health, our society's capacity to show solidarity, it is vital for Christmas to take place, for families to spend happy holidays".
Even though the government has announced no new measures, what could they be?
- New nationwide lockdown? This is what Nancy University Hospital Center professor Christian Rabaud wishes. Interviewed by Le Monde, he says that the sooner a lockdown is implemented the shorter it will last, before reminding that one shall "weigh pros and cons, the psychological impact on the people, the feasability and the acceptability are crucil to make a measure effective".
- Local-based lockdown? Epidemiologist Mircea Sofonea is for a local-based lockdown in the most-hit places, a new nationwide lockdown could be "badly accepted and therefore not respected" she told Le Monde.
- Extending curfew and remote working? Curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. - currently on until January 20 - could be extended beyond that date, as the executive said. "On January 20, if the Holidays did not translate into a resurgence of the epidemic, then we could consider lifting curfew and allow the reopening of restaurants" the PM said on November 26.
- Postponing the reopening of restaurants, bars, and cultural places? Jean Castex said on Europe 1, reopening bars and restaurants from January 20 was not certain, including for cultural venues. Two sectors that have absolutely no prospect. The date of April 6th seems to have been considered by some restaurateurs, but it has been denied by the government.