On a visit to Hartlepool this afternoon the Prime Minister said that experience had shown that the disease usually hit the United Kingdom a few weeks after it wreaked havoc in continental Europe.
French president Emmanuel Macron last night blamed the ‘British variant’ for creating ‘a pandemic within a pandemic’ as he finally bowed to weeks of pressure from medics and epidemiologists to impose four weeks of new restrictions.
In a televised address, the 43-year-old conceded somberly that ‘the epidemic is accelerating, and we are likely to lose control,’ as he ordered people to remain inside their homes and children to stop going to school.
But speaking to staff at medical manufacturer Hart Biologicals, on a visit to Teesside ahead of the Hartlepool by-election, Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m afraid you can see what’s happening in France.
‘It’s very sad actually – it’s very very sad. When they get it in France and they get it bad, two or three weeks later it comes to us … we’ve got to be ready for that.’
France will enter a third national lockdown for four weeks, French president Emmanuel Macron announced in an address to the nation on Wednesday night, expanding current measures in 19 territories to the whole country. Pictured: Macron seen on TV on Wednesday night
France’s infection rate has soared in recent weeks in a resurgence blamed on the British variant of Covid-19, which has now resulted in a third national lockdown
Death rates are also climbing and the total is nearing the tally of 100,000 which has already been reached by the UK and Italy
Le Figaro said, ‘Lockdown, continues… the end?,’ while La Depeche said: ‘Macron reconfines France’
The French press savaged Macron this morning, Le Monde went for, ‘Macron bets on a final lockdown’, while Liberation headlined it, ‘In April on a wire, in May…’. Many of the papers expressed doubts about the president’s promise that France would be back to normality by mid-May
France has recorded an average of 38,000 new Covid cases each day over the last week – the highest figure on the continent.
Its infection rate is at 70 per cent of where it was at the peak of cases it saw in November.
In contrast Britain’s daily coronavirus cases have dropped by a third in a week and deaths are continuing to fall, official data revealed today as a catalogue of statistics showed England’s outbreak is still shrinking.
Department of Health bosses posted 4,479 lab-confirmed cases today and 51 deaths – down 20 per cent on the same time last week. Figures also showed more second vaccine doses (404,922) than first shots (241,906) were dished out for the second day in a row.
And data across the board revealed the virus remains in retreat, prompting an expert to say reopening schools had a ‘very small’ impact on cases and England was in a ‘good position’ for further lockdown-easing on April 12.
Mr Macron was savaged in parliament today by opposition MPs across the house who accused him of Napoleonic arrogance and acting too slowly amid the worst infection rate in Europe.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of the left-wing Unbowed France party, condemned his tenure as a ‘disgrace’ as the house boycotted a vote on the measures.
‘It really is April 1 today,’ he told MPs. ‘Everything has already been decided and we are invited to come and acclaim…the presidential monarch, the best virologist in France apparently, and modesty’s best friend. We will boycott this vote.
‘You are responsible before history of a health disaster the likes of which this country has never seen. You let the wave rise by aggravating everything.’
Mr Macron awoke to front pages which did not share his optimism that France would be returning to normality by the middle of May.
‘Lockdown, the sequel… and the end?’ Le Figaro’s headline said.
Le Parisien called Macron’s tactic ‘slowing without shutting down’ despite the fact the outbreak ‘has never been so dangerous or complicated.’
Le Monde’s Solenne de Royer wrote that Macron’s announcement was an obvious attempt to ‘mask the government’s powerlessness against an out-of-control epidemic and cumulative delays since last summer over vaccination and intensive care beds.’
That same paper earlier this week ran damaging leaks from inside the Elysee Palace that Macron believed himself more of an epidemiologist than his advisors.
‘The president has become an epidemiologist,’ colleagues told the paper.