As France begins its fourth week of lockdown, the number of new cases and deaths keep rising. The latest figures show that more than 10,000 people have died in France from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
A slight dip in the number of daily deaths over the weekend proved to be temporary when Monday’s figures revealed the highest jump yet: 605 new victims in 24 hours.
Authorities are now encouraging people to wear some form of mask or face covering when out in public, for strictly regulated essential errands or work. Some French towns, including Nice and Cannes on the Riviera, are making it obligatory.
In Paris, where wearing a face mask or covering is only advised, the mayor has promised to distribute two million cloth masks to inhabitants. Surgical and proven protective masks are still reserved primarily for healthcare and other frontline workers, and for those with the virus.
Paris has also decided to introduce even more stringent restrictions on movement, banning all outdoor exercise during the daytime starting Wednesday. People will still be allowed out of their homes to buy food or attend medical appointments, but joggers and walkers will only be allowed out before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
The move is part of an effort to limit the numbers on the streets of the capital, as soaring temperatures and blue skies tempt more and more people outside. Polls have shown that Parisians leave their homes more often than others around the country, possibly because the vast majority live in apartments, most without balconies or a private outdoor space.
City Hall announced increased controls by police in public spaces like the canal, the two sprawling open parks on the edge of the city and the market squares, which are now empty of stalls.
France is closely watching, where the number of new infections is now on a downward trend. The French lockdown was based on the northern Italian one, and health officials believe France is about two weeks behind Italy on the curve.
Previous estimates had set the peak in France for last weekend, and that prompted speculation as to how the country would come out of lockdown, which is currently set for April 15. The National Academy of Medicine has suggested that it should be lifted gradually, region by region, beginning with those areas that have the lowest number of cases, such as central France.
But prime minister Edouard Philippe told lawmakers Tuesday that it was “far too early” to talk about ending restrictions on movement. He warned that the nationwide lockdown, which began March 17, would continue.
“It is difficult for many French people, I am fully aware of that,” he said. “But it is necessary if we don’t want to find ourselves in a worse situation than today.”