The French Government has decided to confine 16 departments (provinces) that comprise the Paris region (Ile de France) and the Hautes de France region (between Paris and Belgium). Since Friday and for four weeks. It has been announced by the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, as a means to stop the third wave of the covid.

Only staple shops will be open, although this time this includes bookstores. The temples will remain open. You can leave the house to go for a walk or do sports but with a safe-conduct and limited to 10 km around the home. On the other hand, there is no time limit to be on the street. except for the curfew, in force throughout France, which is delayed one hour until 7:00 p.m.

Schools will remain open and teleworking 4 days out of 5 is established as a recommendation. The inhabitants of confined places will not be able to travel outside their regions except for professional or essential reasons. The vaccination campaign with AstraZeneca will restart tomorrow, Friday, once the European Medicines Agency has given its green light. The prime minister will be vaccinated tomorrow to set an example. It will be the second member of the Government who receives the prick. The head of Health, Olivier Véran, who is a doctor, already did.

The figures for this third wave are these: 34,998 new cases in the last 24 hours, 25,389 hospitalized patients, and 4,246 in the ICUs. 273 dead yesterday, more than 90,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. “The progression of the epidemic is accelerating strongly,” Castex summarized.

“Unfortunately, the owner of time is the virus,” Macron had said in Montauban on Monday, at the end of the Franco-Spanish summit in that southern city where Manuel Azana is buried. For someone who once presented himself as the “lord of the clocks, it was the ultimate expression of resignation. After the German decision to stop the AstraZeneca vaccination, they had no choice but to stop it in France. The speed race between virus and vaccine is about to be lost, admitted the head of state.

Experts said the government could forget about having 10 million French people vaccinated by April 15. That date was one of the returns to more normal life in the words of the spokesman of the executive, Gabriel Attal. And that was, more or less, the unspoken term that Macron had said had to be put up with.

On Tuesday, the prime minister gave an interview during the Champions League schedule. Castex admitted that France lives in a third wave way. So the time had come to make decisions and he confirmed that confining the Paris region for the weekend was on the table.  Although he is far from being a great communicator, the man-made an effort to give security to his compatriots: he said that if the AstraZeneca vaccine received the green light, he would give it and that he maintained the goal of 10 million vaccinated on April 15. To date, 5.7 million French people have received at least one dose and less than 400,000 the second.

Wednesday. Defense Council at the Elyse is a succinct version of the Council of Ministers. The Minister of Health exposes three scenarios confine the whole of France, confine the Paris region all week, or confine it only on the weekend. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who comes from the right, leads the group of supporters to close as little as possible against Véran who comes from socialism and, in addition, is a doctor.

With the first ruled out, everyone assumes that Macron has to resign himself to lock up 12 million inhabitants in the Isle of France and the six in Hautes-de-France, the region between the Isle of France and Belgium. At least, from Friday at six in the afternoon until six in the morning on Monday, taxed departures and with proof. Hard, very hard. So much so that Macron himself seems to rule it out. Speaking on Wednesday afternoon with elected officials, one of those present records the president: “He is unlivable.”

31% OF GDP

The decision is tricky. Isle de France is only 2% of the extent of France. But 12 of the 66 million French live here. And 31% of GDP is generated. In the capital region, there are 230,000 shops and small service businesses (hairdressers, for example) that employ 630,000 people and that make a third of their cash on the weekend.

If the president of the region, Valérie Pécresse, a dissident from the right, seems resigned to accepting weekend confinement, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, called it “inhumane” recently. The socialist mayor is considering running for the presidency and Macron was not going to give her that flag.

YOUNG

Macron, following an encounter with young people from the Parisian periphery, has been very sensitive to the burden of young people who cannot go anywhere. He is also convinced that “going outside is healthy” and that there is much more risk in closed places where people remove their masks to “eat, drink or sing.

The problem is the virus. All these economic, political, and sociological considerations explain that confining the Ile de France is not the same as confining the Côte d’Azur. The problem is that the virus does not understand them. The English strain (65% of infections throughout France) has brought the Paris incidence rate to nearly 400 cases per 100,000. In neighboring Seine-Saint-Denis, the poorest department in France and one of the most conflictive, they have exceeded 500.

In the region’s ICUs, there are 1,200 patients, more than in the peak of November, although half the record of the first wave a year ago. With similar figures, the government three weeks ago confined the Côte d’Azur and Dunkirk, whose inhabitants cannot go out on weekends. Even Macron himself declared that decisions had to be made based on constant data within a principle of territorial and political equity.