PARIS: Hundreds of thousands of people in northern France went back into lockdown on Saturday, while health officials stepped up their nationwide vaccination campaign to make up ground after a slow start.

The residents of Pas-de-Calais on the north coast joined those in the region’s port of Dunkirk — and the Mediterranean resort of Nice — already shut down on Saturdays and Sundays.

That puts more than two million people across France under the weekend restrictions, required to stay at home unless they can provide a written exemption.

With hospital capacity at 90 percent in Pas-de-Calais, the region’s prefect insisted the new restrictions were necessary to prevent local health services from being overwhelmed.

Two thirds of the cases recorded there recently have been the more contagious variant first detected in England, said local officials.

But with a 6pm-6am curfew already in place and non-essential shops closed there, the new restrictions will hurt already hard-pressed businesses. Covid-19 has killed 88,300 people across France, according to the latest figures.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2021

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