French officials are considering a third nationwide lockdown as soon as Saturday, in an effort to stop the country’s increase in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Options under consideration include continuing the country’s nationwide 6 p.m. curfew, first put in place nearly two weeks ago, or could expand to a strict lockdown that would include the closure of schools, said government spokesman Gabriel Attal.
“It’s worrying,” Mr. Attal said. “If additional measures aren’t taken at the end of the week, if the curfew doesn’t show more results, the situation could get worse.”
The increase in coronavirus cases in France has slowed since the government applied the new curfew, rising 5.2% over the past week to just over 20,000 new diagnoses a day, according to published figures. Two weeks ago, the week-on-week increase was 19%.
But the government is worried about the spread of new, more contagious variants, which have led neighboring countries to enter stricter lockdowns. A variant of the virus was detected in 3.2% of positive tests in Britain on Jan. 8, but officials now estimate it accounts for 10% of the infections in the country, Mr. Attal said.
Schools in France haven’t been closed so far this school year, with the country instead preferring to shutter individual classes and, in some cases whole schools, where cases appear. The goal has been to allow children to go to school as much as possible. One option now under consideration is extending February school vacations.
In the Netherlands, which is under a broad lockdown until at least Feb. 9, generally positive recent trends in the virus are offset by a rising incidence of the new British variant, which the government estimates to account for more than one-third of new infections. An official statement said “there are essentially two separate Covid-19 epidemics: One epidemic involving the ‘old’ variant, in which infections are decreasing, and another epidemic involving the U.K. variant, in which infections are increasing.”
In Germany, the seven-day coronavirus incidence fell below 100 per 100,000 inhabitants on Wednesday for the first time since October, according to figures released by the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. The country registered 17,553 new cases that day, down from 20,398 a week earlier. Daily death levels have remained stubbornly high around the 1,000 mark however.