A third national lockdown will probably soon be needed to combat coronavirus in France, the country’s top medical adviser said on Sunday.
Prof Jean-Francois Delfraissy, head of the scientific council that advises French leaders on Covid-19, said “there is an emergency” and this week will be critical.
He called for swift government action, amid increasing concerns about the fast spread of new variants of the coronavirus despite a strict and unpopular curfew.
Delfraissy said data showed a new more transmissible variant first detected in the UK now makes up around 9% of new cases in some French regions.
He said the country was in a better situation than others in Europe but described the new variants as the “equivalent of a second pandemic”.
“If we do not tighten regulations, we will find ourselves in an extremely difficult situation from mid-March,” he warned during an interview with BFM television.
Officials have so far resisted implementing a third national lockdown, preferring the overnight curfew which allows schools to stay open.
But daily infection numbers are rising and seem to be inexorable.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex previously said restrictions would be imposed “without delay” if the situation deteriorated further.
The country’s death toll topped 73,000 on Sunday, as arrivals into the country were further restricted.
Under new rules anyone entering France from inside the EU by air or ferry must now present a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 72 hours of travel.
Those entering France from the EU by road, including cross-border workers, will not be required to take a test.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said last week that all non-essential travel “must be strongly advised against” but EU nations have so far agreed to keep borders open.
The French government is expected to meet on Wednesday to decide if further measures are needed.