French to find out if virus surge will ruin Christmas holidays

Shoppers outside the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris on Tuesday, 1 December, 2020.
Shoppers outside the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris on Tuesday, 1 December, 2020. AP - Christophe Ena

With just two weeks to go until Christmas, French people were on Thursday nervously awaiting news by the Prime Minister on whether lockdown restrictions will be relaxed as planned.


Failure to adequately stem the number of coronavirus cases has fuelled fears that Jean Castex will scupper end-of-year festivities at a press conference set for 6pm.

Under plans laid out in November, cinemas and theatres are due to reopen on 15 December, with a night-time curfew replacing a nationwide lockdown – allowing people to travel to see loved ones over the holidays.

However, President Emmanuel Macron made it clear those measures were contingent on virus numbers dropping to fewer than 5,000 per day – a figure that is now appears unattainable with just five days to go.

The number of new infections rose again on Wednesday to 14,595, up from 13,713 on Tuesday – the highest total since 25 November.

Circulation of the virus has seen a steady boost since non-essential shops – not including cafes and restaurants – reopened on 28 November.

New Year's in doubt

To avoid a third virus wave, unnamed government sources told French media that plans to allow New Year’s Eve celebrations could be axed, with cinemas and theatres made to remain closed until 20 January. 

If French people are allowed to maintain their Christmas travel plans, the government’s policy would be in opposition to advice from health experts who want to see the holiday season cancelled altogether. 

“We must forget about the 31st of December in order to protect 2021,” urged professor Gilles Pialoux, head of the infectious diseases department at Paris’s Tenon hospital.

Speaking on BFMTV Thursday, he warned the spike in new infections, dubbed a “high plateau”, is because many French people have unilaterally chosen to remove themselves from lockdown.

To limit the risk of contamination this month, Pialoux is advising people to self-isolate and to get tested before reuniting with family and friends.

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