People wearing masks, walk on Alexandre III bridge in Paris, Sunday Oct.25, 2020. A curfew intended to curb the spiraling spread of the coronavirus, has been imposed in many regions of France including Paris and its suburbs. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

France braces for possible lockdown as virus deaths mount

October 28, 2020 - 5:34 am

PARIS (AP) — France is bracing for a potential new lockdown as the president prepares a televised address Wednesday aimed at stopping a fast-rising tide of virus patients filling French hospitals and a growing daily death toll.

French markets opened lower on expectations that President Emmanuel Macron will announce some kind of lockdown Wednesday, though the government has not released details amid ongoing discussions about what measures would be most effective.

Many French doctors are urging a new nationwide lockdown, noting that 58% of the country's intensive care units are now occupied by COVID patients and medical staff are under increasing strain.

“The government didn’t take into account what the first wave was and didn’t learn all its lessons,” Frederic Valletoux, president of the French Hospital Federation, said Wednesday on France-Inter radio.

He called for full, monthlong lockdown, saying “this wave will be much more devastating for the hospital system. Hospitals won’t manage if we don’t take drastic measures.”

Business owners and some politicians are pushing for a compromise, such as local lockdowns in the hardest-hit areas, or a lockdown that would allow schools to stay open.

Economists warn that a full lockdown could impact Europe more broadly if other European countries hit hard by rising infections then follow France’s lead.

France reported 523 virus-related deaths in 24 hours Tuesday, the highest daily tally since April, bringing its overall death toll to 35,541, the third-highest toll in Europe after Britain and Italy.

France has for weeks been reporting tens of thousands of new infections per day and is now recording more than 380 new cases each week per 100,000 people.

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