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Coronavirus: French PM says lifting lockdown would be 'irresponsible' despite some hopeful signs

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French Prime Minister Jean Castex in Nice, southern France, Saturday Nov. 7, 2020,
French Prime Minister Jean Castex in Nice, southern France, Saturday Nov. 7, 2020,   -   Copyright  Valery Hache/AP Photo
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France's prime minister said it would be "irresponsible to lift or even relax" the lockdown restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Jean Castex said that although there were hopeful signs with new COVID-19 contaminations down 16%, this hasn't yet been reflected in the hospitalisations.

Officials will thus not issue any stricter measures, but cannot yet lift restrictions.

France has one of the highest incidence rates of COVID-19 in Europe and COVID-19 patients now make up 95% of the intensive care units.

A patient is hospitalised every thirty seconds with COVID-19, Castex said. Forty per cent of those who are in intensive care are under the age of 65, the prime minister added.

"No one can think they are invisible or spared" from the epidemic," said Castex.

French officials said that they hope the epidemic peak will be early next week and that hospitalisations will begin to decrease.

When could the lockdown end?

The lockdown is set to last until December 1 but could go on longer. Indeed although some shops might be able to reopen in December, bars and restaurants will likely have to remain closed if restrictions are relaxed on December 1, Castex said.

They will also likely keep the justification form in place after December 1, with people forced to fill out a form every time they leave the house.

But officials hope that the government can lift restrictions for Christmas so that French people can celebrate with families but Castex added that it would not be "reasonable" to plan large parties for New Years' Eve.

There will be economic support for businesses heavily impacted by the pandemic and those that might need to close, Castex said. This includes help for businesses to pay their rent, ministers said.

People who can do their jobs from home must work at home five days a week, the government has added.

"A large majority of employers and workers are playing the game," labour minister Elisabeth Borne said. She said that 45% of people who work in the private sector worked from home.

Some 40% of people who work in the public sectors, not counting police or teachers, are working from home, Borne said.

Every hour of working from home counts, she added.