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'I share your weariness': French PM reveals curfew & continued closure of cultural venues as Covid rates still too high

'I share your weariness': French PM reveals curfew & continued closure of cultural venues as Covid rates still too high
France will replace its current stay-at-home lockdown with a curfew of 8pm, including on New Year's Eve, and keep cultural venues closed from December 15, amid unshakably high Covid-19 infections, PM Jean Castex has said.

The government had earlier said that the ban on theaters, museums and cinemas re-opening and orders for people to stay home – in place since October – would be lifted next week.

But the planned partial relaxation of restrictions was on the condition that the daily number of new Covid-19 cases did not climb above 5,000, which has not been met, as at least 10,000 people in France are still catching the virus on average every day.

The PM did acknowledge that the situation had "considerably improved" since the imposition of France's second lockdown six weeks ago, when new cases totalled almost 50,000 a day, but defended the delay on easing restrictions, stating that infection rates had hit a "plateau."

"We cannot let down our guard. We have to stay focused, and find our way through the next few weeks with lots of vigilance," Castex said as he outlined the new plans.

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"I know your weariness, your doubts, your sufferings. I share them," he tweeted after his address. "But first I owe you the truth and transparency about this epidemic."

French Health Minister Olivier Veran pointed out that the country is still battling a second wave of the virus, highlighting the 14,000 new infections on Thursday compared to 12,000 on the same day last week.

Families in France are permitted to travel to spend Christmas together, but Veran said that the New Year's Eve curfew is necessary to avert another surge in cases – and a third lockdown come 2021.

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The country has recorded more than 2.3 million Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic – the fifth highest in the world – and 56,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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