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.
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.
International tourism to France has slowed to a trickle because of the pandemic, and restaurants and tourist sites have been closed since October along with many hotels.
France will also close all large shopping centers starting Sunday and limit travel to, and from, its overseas territories.
Virus infections, hospitalizations and deaths have been rising steadily but not sharply in France in recent weeks, and many doctors have been urging a new nationwide shutdown like those imposed in several other European countries.
Citing the economic devastation of such measures, Castex said: Our duty is to put everything in place to avoid a new lockdown, and the coming days will be decisive.
France has reported among the world’s highest virus death tolls, at 75,620, and more than 60% of its intensive care beds are occupied by virus patients.
More than ever we should do everything to respect the rules, Castex said.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)