The French lockdown is set to be extended beyond the original December 2 date, despite the government claiming the coronavirus has peaked.
Health Minister Olivier Veran confirmed today that he cannot set a date for the end of draconian national restrictions, which were imposed for one month on October 30th.
Veran said the restrictions on movement could not be lifted on December 1st, reflecting Prime Minister Jean Castex's grim attitude last week that bars, cafes and gyms should remain closed after the deadline.
It comes after Veran said France peaked on Sunday after the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 fell for the first time since mid-August.
The country has seen a sharp drop in the number of reported coronavirus cases over the past week, two weeks after the strict lockdown began in which people must justify their presence outside their homes to police.
France's cases fell to a monthly low of 9,406 on Monday after averaging over 38,000 a day for the past ten days.
The French Prime Minister Jean Castex (C) and the French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (2ndL) will meet by video conference on November 16, 2020 with representatives of the most important religions in France at the Hotel Matignon in Paris
Many European countries, including the UK, have opted for a second national lockdown, but with an end date that many citizens are deeply skeptical of.
Angela Merkel calls for a tougher lockdown
Chancellor Merkel said on Tuesday that the coronavirus was still very serious after the federal leaders postponed a decision to extend the lockdown measures.
Merkel said she would have preferred to have stricter rules agreed at meeting with state officials on Monday, adding that she was very concerned about the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus in some places, including the capital Berlin.
“The number of infections is no longer growing exponentially, but is still much too high. So we have to reduce contacts, reduce contacts, reduce contacts, ”said Merkel.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose 14,419 in one day while the death toll rose 267. The increase in the number of cases was less than the 15,332 reported a week ago, but the death toll rose from 154.
Merkel noted that around 30-40% of the German population were at risk, including the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.
"Getting the pandemic under control is also the best solution for business," she said.
On November 2, Germany imposed a one-month “Lockdown Lite”. Bars and restaurants are closed, but schools and shops remain open.
Despite the fall in cases on Monday, the number of hospitalizations rose 416 to a new all-time high of 33,497. The number of COVID-19 deaths rose 506 to 45,054 from a moving average of 581 days in seven days.
France has the fourth highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world at 1,991,233.
The number on Monday tends to decrease as fewer tests are done on Sundays.
However, the seven-day moving average for new infections, which calculates the weekly irregularity reporting data, was 26,251 for the eighth straight day, up from a November 74 high of 54,440.
Despite these positive trends, Veran said it was too early to relax the lockdown.
"We haven't defeated the virus yet," Veran told reporters in Lyon, adding that lockdown measures must continue as long as the daily infection numbers have not dropped significantly and the hospital system remains under pressure.
On Saturday, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, which had risen virtually continuously since mid-August, finally fell by a modest 208 to 32,499.
ICU numbers also fell for the first time in months, leading Veran to tell regional newspapers on Sunday that France had passed the peak of the pandemic.
But on Sunday evening hospital numbers rose again by 582 to 33,081, staying above the highest level recorded during the initial lockdown.
With no known date as to when or how the lockdown might abate, the government has come under fire from church leaders for citizens' ability to worship as Catholics held open-air protest in the cities of Nantes and Versailles.
Prime Minister Castex will meet religious leaders on Monday.
BELGIUM TO VACCINATE 70% OF ITS POPULATION
The Belgian government said on Monday that it intended to provide a coronavirus vaccine free of charge to around 70 percent of the population, around eight million people.
The sting will not be mandatory, added Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke when he and regional colleagues attended an inter-ministerial health conference.
“The aim is to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the population. Priority groups are set on the basis of scientific opinions and social debate, ”explained Vandenbroucke.
The shopkeepers urged the government to reopen the discount weekend on November 27-29 on Black Friday.
They have problems holding their own against the huge online retailer Amazon, which will continue to operate during the entire lockdown period.
In an open letter from francinfo radio, left-wing politicians and NGOs called for an exceptional tax on Amazon's revenues and called on the government to block its expansion.
"With the crisis and lockdown, Amazon is threatening retail survival," they wrote.
Prime Minister Castex warned last week that the lockdown of cafes, bars and gyms in the country would likely take longer than the government planned.
After the end of the two-week review period, he said at a press conference that the second wave had remained "extremely serious".
"We could start easing restrictions on December 1st," he said.
But he added, "Getting started cannot include facilities that are open to the public, such as bars and gyms."
Police officers patrol and check the mobility paper in the deserted Trocadero Square near the Eiffel Tower during the second national lockdown, known as refinfinement, in Paris
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