New Covid restrictions in and around Paris - but not full lockdown

Credit: AP

Parisians have avoided a tough new lockdown as the French government shied away from harsh Covid restrictions amid rising coronavirus cases.

A patchwork of new rules will instead be enforced, including reducing the national curfew by one hour and the closure on non-essential stores.

It comes as the country said it would resume its AstraZeneca vaccination programme from Friday after the jab was ruled safe and it was deemed it had no link to blood clots.

Those living in the Paris area have been encouraged to get fresh air - with people living in the Paris region and in the north of the country allowed to walk as long as they like in a day, but only within a six mile radius of their homes and with a paper authorizing the stroll.

France restarted its AstraZeneca Covid vaccination rollout on Friday. Credit: AP

Travel between regions has also been ruled out, unless in exceptional circumstances.

Nothing will change at schools, which are to remain open, but sports activities will now be allowed.

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the new rules, which will take effect as of midnight Friday and last for at least four weeks.

He referred to “massive new measures” to “slow down (the virus) without locking down people.”

“I also know the deep wish of many of you to enjoy the outdoors, since the crisis has gone on for one year and Spring is coming,” Mr Castex said.

“The situation is deteriorating,” he said.

The Paris region has an infection rate of 446 out of 100,000 inhabitants — up more than 23% in a week — Mr Castex warned.

Intensive care units are close to saturation.

Northern France has an incidence rate of 381 in 100,000 - France’s nationwide infection rate is about 250 per 100,000.

But the prime minister insisted that France was sticking to its “third way” of dealing with the virus: “Pragmatic, proportional and regional,” targeting problematic areas.

The French population was warned the 'situation was deteriorating'. Credit: AP

The Nice area and, in the north, the Pas de Calais and Dunkirk region, have been in full weekend lockdowns. The north, the Paris region and several others are now being targeted, but with a mix of carrot and stick measures.

People all over France have been under a 6pm to 6am nationwide curfew for two months. The curfew will now begin an hour later.

In addition, restaurants, bars, cinemas, gyms, museums, theatres and concert halls have been shut down for almost five months, and will remain closed.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s government had hoped the measures already in place would spare the country of 67 million from the economic, social and psychological impact of another lockdown.

Yet confirmed infections and demand for ICU beds have both risen steadily in recent weeks.

The UK virus variant accounts for most infections, and around 250 people are dying each day from the virus.