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Macron defends no lockdown decision

French President Emmanuel Macron is defending a decision to hold off on a third lockdown, telling the public he has faith in their ability to rein in COVID-19 with less severe curbs.

From Sunday, France will close its borders to all but essential travel to and from countries outside the European Union, while arrivals from within the bloc will have to show a negative test.

Large shopping malls will be shut and police patrols increased to enforce a 6 pm curfew.

But Macron has stopped short of ordering a new daytime lockdown, saying he wants to see if other measures will be enough to slow a third-wave of the virus as the country’s vaccine rollout also falters.

With 10 per cent of cases now attributable to the more contagious variant first found in Britain, senior medics have recommended a new lockdown.

A new opinion poll shows more than three quarters of French people think one is now inevitable. It also indicates falling public confidence in the government’s handling of the crisis.

“I have trust in us. These hours that we are living through are crucial. Let’s do all we can to slow the epidemic together,” Macron tweeted on Saturday.

He has also been under fire for rolling out vaccines at a slower pace than other big EU countries and far slower than Britain or the United States.

France’s latest figures showed it had given just 1.45 million vaccine doses so far. Britain, by comparison, has recorded 8.4 million.

France reported 24,393 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday while the number of patients in hospital stayed above 27,000 for a fifth straight day.

The rate of new infections is still lower than it was when the last lockdown was ordered in October but hospitalisation rates are already comparable.

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