“Our goal must be to reduce private contacts, which are the most dangerous contacts, which is to say the moments when there’s a little slackening,” Macron said in an interview with journalists broadcast live on French television.
France has seen a steady rise in new coronavirus infections since August, undermining progress made during a strict two-month lockdown in the spring.
The government has gradually imposed new restrictions, such as limits on restaurant capacity and hours of alcohol sales in hot spots.
Paris had been largely spared those measures, but alarms were raised Saturday after the country recorded nearly 27,000 new cases in the previous 24-hour period, a record for France during the pandemic, with a worrying number of infections concentrated in the capital.
The numbers were somewhat lower on Wednesday but still high. The Health Ministry reported 22,500 cases in 24 hours and 6,000 new hospitalizations in the previous seven days — 1,000 of those in intensive care units.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo encouraged residents to “remain united and apply the measures announced by the president of the republic, even if they are harsh. It’s a new challenge, and we will face it, together and in solidarity with health workers.”
Macron also urged people to restrict gatherings to no more than six people outside their families. He acknowledged the impact of such restrictions on young people in particular. “It’s hard to be 20 in 2020,” he said. “It’s hard.”
Although some public health experts questioned the efficacy of a nighttime lockdown on virus circulation — especially because so many French virus clusters have been traced to workplaces — Macron was adamant that this is the right course.
He said the government would do everything it could to ensure that restaurants and theaters — already hurting — would survive, including subsidizing workers who see their hours reduced. But he conceded there would be economic pain.