France to Lockdown as Vaccinations Lag

The French president rebuffed his advisers in January and opted against more restrictions, betting that inoculation would curb the pandemic. Instead, a new wave of infections is battering France.

After more than a year of lockdowns and months of a sputtering vaccination campaign, Europe’s efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic entered yet another difficult chapter on Wednesday as President Emmanuel Macron of France announced the start of a third national lockdown in a desperate move to halt a new deadly wave.

With infections surging, hospitals swelling with patients and the virus now reaching into classrooms, Mr. Macron effectively abandoned a monthslong gamble to keep France open in the hope that a steady pace of vaccinations would make a lockdown unnecessary. He said that restrictions currently covering about one-third of the country’s population would be extended nationwide for four weeks starting Saturday, and that schools would be closed for at least three weeks.

As the tally of coronavirus deaths pushed relentlessly close to the 100,000 mark, and with the highly transmissible variant first detected in Britain now accounting for two-thirds of France’s new infections, Mr. Macron gave in to scientists and opposition politicians who had been pressing for a lockdown in recent weeks, and joined the list of European nations already hunkering down before the virus.

About three-quarter of Italy’s population is barred from going outside except for work, health or other essentials. Germany has also imposed a partial lockdown, with varying degrees of restrictions depending on the region, while Poland closed all nonessential shops and switched most of its schools to remote learning.

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The measures announced by Mr. Macron stop short of the strict national shutdown of a year ago that kept most people indoors and left Paris’s world-famous attractions deserted. This time, people will be able to go outside without filling out forms, though they will be limited to a six-mile radius from their homes, will not be allowed to travel between regions and will have to respect a nighttime curfew between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.


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