No. 24 ~ Somerville ~ Jan. 30, 2021

France skirts a lockdown, but closes its borders

A quick update: In my post last weekend, I mentioned the buzz in the French press about an imminent third lockdown there. The buzz continued through the week, until the announcement last night that the French have dodged a third lockdown, at least for now. Instead, the government has imposed stricter border controls. Starting at midnight tonight, there is a ban on travel into and out of France from all non-EU countries. There will certainly be exceptions but those details are still forthcoming. Travel into France from other EU countries will require a negative PCR test result for entry, a week of home quarantine, and another negative result. The government also indicated that police will be clamping down on enforcement of the 6pm to 6am curfew. No promises were made about how long these new restrictions may last. 

The indicators for the pandemic in France are not good, but they’re not desperate. At the beginning of the second lockdown in October, the country was suffering 50,000 new Covid-19 cases a day. The lockdown was dramatically effective. The curve went down as steeply as it went up. With new cases now at 20,000/day, the frustration lies in the trend. New cases have jumped 10% a week for the past four weeks. 

Here in Massachusetts, with trends improving, Governor Charlie Baker has eased up restrictions. Most notably, restaurants are no longer required to close at 9:30pm, though a 25% capacity limit remains in place. In mid-October, the state’s positive test rate was less than 1%. It climbed steadily to over 8% since then, but is now down to less than 5%. Nevertheless, the New York Times coronavirus tracker rates the risk in our county, Middlesex, as “very high.”

So I wonder why Macron is closing his borders while Baker is lifting restrictions.

Could the difference lie in the variants? The mutated strains already account for 10% of new cases in France. Genomic testing is still so spotty in the U.S., it makes me wonder if Baker is underestimating how rapidly more contagious strains will become dominant here.
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[Photos by JK unless otherwise noted.]