French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a state of health emergency in France. The news comes with a new overnight curfew in Paris and other major cities where COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are rising fast.
"We will no longer go to restaurants after 9 p.m. We will no longer go to friends' houses. We will no longer party because we know that this is how we get infected more easily," Macron explained during a prime-time TV interview on Wednesday.
The curfew begins Saturday and applies to around 20 million people. It will last for at least four weeks.
In the regions impacted, all businesses will have to close from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. During those hours, people will be required to stay at home outside of emergencies or face a fine of $160.
Macron promised new economic relief for sectors affected by the curfew and urged French people to take the new restrictions seriously.
"We are all actors in this fight against the virus," Macron said.
Before the announcement, bar and restaurant owners had organized protests, saying they wouldn't survive restrictions for much longer.
"High-street shops revenue has dropped by 40 to 60% since the beginning of the year, which is simply unbearable," said Stéphane Manigold, a restaurant owner in Paris and spokesperson for a collective called "Let's Stay Open."
France’s previous state of health emergency expired in July.
The country is seeing an average of 20,000 new infections a day. And patients with COVID-19 now occupy a third of intensive care units across the country.