France curfew aims to cancel mass New Year's Eve celebrations

Prime Minister Jean Castex also confirmed families would be allowed to travel to celebrate Christmas together

Women wearing protective face masks walk at the Place de la Concorde as Christmas trees decorate along the Champs Elysees avenue leading up to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France December  4, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
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France has imposed curfew orders aimed at curtailing mass New Year’s Eve celebrations as the number of coronavirus cases rises again.

The French government said on Thursday it would lift a six-week coronavirus lockdown as expected, but it would also bring in an 8pm curfew, including for New Year's Eve.

Prime Minister Jean Castex also confirmed that families would be allowed to travel to celebrate Christmas together.

In a blow for the cultural sector, Mr Castex said museums, theatres and cinemas, which had been hoping to recoup some losses over the holidays, would remain closed for an extra three weeks, as would football stadiums.

The number of cases has dropped from almost 50,000 a day in late October to about 10,000, but that decline "has slowed over the past several days", he said.

"We're on a sort of plateau," Mr Castex said, warning that if the French dropped their guard they could face a third lockdown in months to come.

The curfew will take effect on Tuesday, lasting from 8pm to 6am, with the exception of December 24 when families are invited to celebrate Christmas, but with no more than six adults in each household.

Health Minister Olivier Veran admitted that France would fall far short of its goal of a maximum 5,000 new cases a day by Tuesday when the lockdown ends.

President Emmanuel Macron had initially said lifting the lockdown would depend on the 5,000-cases level being met but revised his stance to give the French some relief after weeks of seclusion.

The restrictions were partly eased on November 28, when businesses selling "non-essential" goods and services, such as bookshops and hairdressers, were allowed to reopen.

But bars and restaurants remained closed and people still needed to fill out permission forms to leave their homes.

The total death toll in France since the start of the pandemic is more than 55,000.