France is weighing the possibility of local lockdowns as the country battles a second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Jean Castex said Monday.
Mr. Castex told Franceinfo that France faces an unprecedented surge in cases that is putting increasing pressure on hospitals, saying that many citizens were not taking health warnings seriously.
Nearly 27,000 new infections were reported by health authorities on Saturday — a record — and the rate of positive results from testing passed 11 percent. The number of deaths is increasing at a higher rate than over the summer, though much more slowly than in the spring, and hospitalizations, including in intensive care units, are rising.
“Nothing can be excluded when one sees the situation in our hospitals,” Mr. Castex said when asked if authorities might put certain cities or regions under lockdown.
But Mr. Castex denied suggestions that France’s testing and tracing strategy had failed, castigating the French instead for failing to heed health warnings.
Mr. Castex said the country had ended a period of confinement “efficiently,” referring to May, when France’s nationwide lockdown ended. “And then the holidays arrived and we — the French, collectively — believed that it was over, that it was behind us.”
He added that the people of France believed that the threat had disappeared, “a bit too quickly, despite our warning about the fact that we had to live with the virus.”
About 500 checks were carried out in the Paris area over the weekend and police found nearly 100 bars and restaurants flouting new health restrictions, Mr. Castex said. In Paris, the number of cases per 100,000 residents has surpassed 800 for people aged 20 to 30 years old — sixteen times the government-set alert level.
“We aren’t doing this to bother them, we are doing this to protect them,” Mr. Castex said of the restrictions. But he ruled out limits on private gatherings with friends and family, calling it legally impossible under French law and contrary to the country’s values.
Mr. Castex also announced that a new version of France’s official contact tracing app, StopCovid, would be released on Oct. 22. The current version has helped to identify only a handful of cases.
In other global developments:
In South Korea, masks will be mandatory in public starting on Tuesday even as social distancing measures are eased. After a 30-day grace period, people over age 14 who fail to wear masks could be fined as much as 100,000 won, or $87. Social-distancing measures will be reduced to their lowest level as of Monday as a second outbreak of infections appears to wane. Nightclubs, bars and karaoke parlors will be allowed to reopen and spectators will be able to go back to sports stadiums. South Korea reported 97 new cases on Monday, slightly higher than the increase most days last week.
New Zealand on Monday announced its first deal for a potential coronavirus vaccine, agreeing to buy 1.5 million doses from the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the German biotechnology company BioNTech if their product succeeds. Officials did not say how much it cost to buy the vaccine, which could be available early next year. With each person expected to require two doses, there would be enough to inoculate 750,000 of New Zealand’s five million people. Megan Woods, the research minister, said that the government was in negotiations with other drug makers and that there would be more announcements next month.
Iran on Monday announced its highest single-day death toll from the virus for the second day in a row, with 272 new victims, The Associated Press reported. The country surpassed 500,000 cases on Sunday, and two of its vice presidents, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht and Ali Akbar Salehi — who is also Iran’s nuclear chief — are the latest senior officials to test positive for the virus, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported.
The president of French Polynesia tested positive for the virus two days after meeting in Paris with the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, according to the French newspaper Le Monde. The office of President Edouard Fritch said in a statement that he was tested after he returned to Tahiti and complained of fever and pain. Mr. Macron’s office said that he would not have to quarantine because the two leaders had followed strict mask and distancing protocols.