French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered schools closed for three weeks as France moves into another lockdown for the third time.
The measure effective from 3 April is to push back a third wave of COVID-19 infections.
With the death toll nearing 100,000, intensive care units in the hardest-hit regions at breaking point and a slower-than-planned vaccine rollout, Macron was forced to abandon his goal of keeping the country open to protect the economy.
“We will lose control if we do not move now,” he said in a televised address to the nation.
His announcement means that movement restrictions already in place for more than a week in Paris, and some northern and southern regions, will now apply to the whole country for at least a month, from Saturday.
Departing from his pledge to safeguard education from the pandemic, Macron said schools will close for three weeks after this weekend.
Macron, 43, has sought to avoid a third large-scale lockdown since the start of the year, betting that if he could steer France out of the pandemic without locking the country down again he would give the economy a chance to recover from last year’s slump.
But the former investment banker’s options narrowed as more contagious strains of the coronavirus swept across France and much of Europe.
For school-children after this weekend, learning will be done remotely for a week, after which all schools go on a two-week holiday.
Thereafter, nursery and primary pupils will return to school while middle and high school pupils continue distance learning for an extra week.
“It is the best solution to slow down the virus,” Macron said, adding that France had succeeded in keeping its schools open for longer during the pandemic than many neighbours.
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