Europe ‘acted rapidly in financial crisis’ says Macron
Analysts said the figures were slightly better than the 9.0 percent shrinkage predicted by the official statistics office INSEE as the impact of a second lockdown in the latter part of the year was not as great as the one first introduced last March. Fears of a third national lockdown were eased last night when Emmanuel Macron and senior ministers decided against the measure but scientists have warned such a move could still be on the cards.
Our duty is to do all we can to avoid a new lockdown, the coming days will be crucial
INSEE said the French economy contracted by a relatively modest 1.3 percent in the last three months of 2020.
It said: “The loss of economic activity was much more modest than that of the first round in March-May 2020.”
But it noted Gross Domestic Product (GDP) slumped 5 percent in the fourth quarter alone compared with the same three-month period in 2019.
The French economy grew 1.5 percent in 2019 to put it among the best performers in Europe but last year’s downturn marked the country’s worst recession since World War Two.
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France has so far managed to avoid a third national lockdown but is on alert after warnings from the government’s scientific advisers.
Ministers decided against the measure after talks last night and instead ordered tighter controls at its borders, increased police action against curfew-breakers and a greater adherence to working from home.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said the public health crisis remained of great concern as France’s death toll jumped above 75,000, the seventh-highest in the world.
Speaking shortly after Emmanuel Macron met senior ministers to discuss the crisis, Mr Castex said: “We know the grave impact of a lockdown.
“Looking at the data of the past few days, we consider that we can still give ourselves a chance to avoid one.”
He said that from tomorrow all arrivals into France from outside the European Union would be banned, except for essential travel.
All visitors from EU nations would need to show a negative PCR test except cross-border workers and hauliers.
Mr Castex said: “Our duty is to do all we can to avoid a new lockdown, the coming days will be crucial.”
The prime minister also said non-food shopping centres with a surface area of more than 20,000 square metres would be closed, home-working rules would be reinforced and that police would crack down on secret parties and illegal openings of restaurants.
He said: “The transgressions of a few will not be allowed to ruin the efforts of all.”
Mr Macron’s top scientific adviser on the epidemic warned last week that France would probably need to impose a third lockdown, possibly as early as the February school holidays, because of the circulation of new variants of the virus.
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France recorded 22,858 new confirmed Covid-19 cases yesterday, taking the total to 3.15 million.
A shortage in vaccine supplies from pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and Moderna has resulted in a sharp slowdown in France’s vaccine deployment.
The health ministry said 1.45 million people had been vaccinated so far.
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