French PM Jean Castex declared tough new border controls for the Covid-19 border, yet again resisted enforcing a new national lockdown.
All but necessary trips from outside the EU will be banned from Sunday onwards. There will also be tightened research criteria from within the EU.
Mr. Castex said that the police would increase their enforcement of an evening curfew and other current laws.
Despite recent rule tightening, infections remain high in France. The United Kingdom, which is no longer in the EU, would be affected by the new restrictions, but its transport minister explained on Twitter that the move will not affect carriers carrying goods to or from the United Kingdom.
Following warnings by top health officials that one will be required amid high hospital rates and the spread of new variants, the possibility of a third national lockdown in France has loomed large throughout the week.
But on Friday, following a defense and security conference, Mr Castex said it could still be stopped in a televised statement.
“We know the grave impact [of a lockdown]. Tonight, looking at the data of the past few days, we consider that we can still give ourselves a chance to avoid one,” he said.
Under the rule update, beginning on Sunday, all travel from outside the EU will be forbidden, unless it is for essential reasons. A negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test will now also be needed for all arrivals from inside the EU – with the exception of cross-border employees. Previously, this law only applied to arrivals by air and sea, not those arriving by road.
The Prime Minister also said, in addition to the new travel rules, that big, non-food shopping centers would close, while home-working rules would be strengthened.
He also vowed the police would crack down on hidden parties and unauthorized openings of restaurants.
“We want to do everything we can to avoid another lockdown. The coming days will be decisive. Let’s be very vigilant,” Mr Castex said.
On Friday, France announced 820 new deaths, raising the nationally registered total to 75,620. More than 27,000 individuals – including more than 3,000 in intensive care – are in hospital with the virus.
France has avoided implementing a nationwide lockout to try to reduce high infection rates during the festive season, unlike many other European nations.
For now, schools remain open nationwide, but businesses such as restaurants and bars have been closed between 18:00 and 06:00 with an overnight curfew imposed.
This week, Health Minister Olivier Veran warned that despite the current restrictions, new more-transmissible strains of coronavirus were now ‘actively spreading’ in France.
The announcement on Friday comes in the midst of a growing row between the EU and vaccine companies over supply shortfalls.
French officials estimate they have so far provided first doses to 1.45 million people, but Pfizer and Moderna’s shortages of delivery are further delaying their rollout.