As a third wave of COVID infections believed to be driven by mutant strains of the virus explodes in Europe, France has just become the latest country to start reimposing lockdown measures, following in the footsteps of Italy, Germany and others.
After initially resisting pressure to revive lockdown measures, Paris and 16 other regions are reimposing lockdown measures on the orders of French Prime Minister Jean Castex, who was appointed to that post to manage the French government's response to the pandemic.
The measures will be in place for at least four weeks, though they will be less restrictive than the measures seen last year. Fears of the third-wave come as Europe overtakes the US as the leader in new COVID cases, while its vaccination campaign falls further behind.
Schools will remain open in the affected areas, but residents will be asked to keep their outdoor activities within a 10km radius from their homes. Non-essential shops will once again be asked to shutter, except book shops (which are needed for school, of course).
A 1900 local time curfew will be implemented, and inter-regional travel will be prohibited.
The new measures will begin Friday night, giving residents a day to prepare.
Reports of the new lockdown arrive as Castex has promised to restart vaccinations using the AstraZeneca jab after the EMA declared it safe earlier (though the scientist who led the safety review acknowledged a possible connection between the vaccine and individuals with low blood-platelet counts). Castex confirmed that he had accepted the EMA's conclusion in a statement to the press. Many other countries, including Italy, Spain and Germany, have also confirmed plans to restart the AstraZeneca vaccinations.
Notably, Norway's Public Health Insitute will wait until next week to decide whether to resume vaccinations. This follows reports from earlier alleging a potential connection between the vaccines and a dead health-care worker.
"Vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine will remain on hold until we have a more complete picture of the situation,” Camilla Stoltenberg, Director General of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said during a Thursday press briefing.
Speaking Thursday, Castex warned France is also battling the "third wave" of COVID infections that has been identified elsewhere in Europe. It comes as France on Thursday reports 34,998 new cases, down slightly from the more than 38K new infections the day before. Another 268 people died, bringing France's total deaths to 91,679.
Meanwhile, Swedish officials said they had identified a case of a patient who died whose profile fit the blood clots-low blood platelet-count profile. COVID cases and deaths have remained elevated in Sweden as well, as the country's political leadership has long since abandoned its lockdown-free approach after cases soared late last year.