COVID-19 restrictions across France are to be lifted slower than anticipated because the number of cases remains too high, the French government confirmed on Thursday.
The country will lift its lockdown on December 15, meaning people no longer have to fill out a form to leave their homes.
But the confinement will be replaced by a nighttime curfew across France from 20:00 to 06:00 — an hour earlier than initially planned.
It will be lifted on December 24 but left in place on New Year's Eve.
Meanwhile, cinemas, theatres and museums, which were meant to open on December 15, will have to remain closed for at least another three weeks, Prime Minister Jean Castex said.
The stricter measures are due to the curve of COVID-19 cases not flattening as fast as expected, Castex said, with around 11,000 new infections confirmed every day over the previous few days.
President Emmanuel Macron had conditioned the easing of restrictions on that number being brought down to 5,000 by December 15.
Health Minister Olivier Véran stressed that the country "is not out of the second wave".
"We won't reach 5,000 cases per day by December 15, this will last because winter will set. The holidays and end of year celebrations will increase our social contacts. The risk is that the number of serious cases will rise," he added.
What else will change?
From December 15, French people will once more be able to travel across the whole country without the need for a form to justify their movement — except during curfew hours.
A possible relaxing of rules at places of worship has, meanwhile, also been postponed.
Controls by the authorities will be strengthened, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has warned, with officers expected to be "inflexible towards unauthorised gatherings and illegal parties".
Since the beginning of the second national lockdown on October 31, officers have carried out more than 2.9 million checks and issued over 285,000 fines.
What's the current situation?
Castex emphasised that the number of daily infections has been divided by five since the new lockdown was introduced and that the country is now among those in Europe where the epidemic is the most "contained".
Currently, one person is hospitalised every minute due to COVID-19 in France, Veran said, with one patient admitted into intensive care every seven minutes. The incidence rate stands at 107 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
But the reduction in the number of cases is now "plateauing", with the decrease in the number of patients in ICU also slowing down.
France is the third most-heavily impacted country in Europe after the UK and Italy. It has so far deplored the death of 56,940 people and recorded more than 2.3 million infections.