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France to mobilize 100,000 police forces to prevent New Year's Eve gatherings

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (C) talks to the press in front of the Gendarmerie in Ambert, central France, on December 23, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The French government is planning to deploy 100,000 police forces and gendarmes across the country on New Year’s Eve in an attempt to enforce a strict curfew and prevent gatherings in public places.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin made the announcement on Thursday, saying he had ordered a visible security presence in city centers and flashpoint suburbs from 20:00 local time, when the curfew begins.

He said security forces would also stop the torching of vehicles during New Year’s Eve celebrations, which has become an annual occurrence since 2005 in the capital, Paris, and other major cities.

Last year, a record 1,457 cars were burnt across the country on New Year’s Eve. The figure was 1,290 for the previous year.

In Paris, half of the metro lines will be closed in the evening, the minister said, adding that he had asked for a wider public transport shutdown across the country to be considered.

In a written message to regional leaders, Darmanin informed them of the "exceptional" mobilization, saying that would amount to an "affirmation of state authority in every part of the national territory."

Police will be breaking up any underground parties as soon as they are reported, he said, adding that "appropriate identity checks" will be carried out and vehicles will be searched for "dangerous elements" as well.

The latest order comes amid a surge in the number of coronavirus infections and concerns over a new, more contagious strain of the virus.

Authorities have ruled out a third national lockdown, but bars, restaurants, and cultural attractions will remain closed into January.

France has confirmed 2.6 million COVID-19 cases, the fifth-highest total in the world, and more than 64,000 deaths.

Like other European countries, France will see muted celebrations for New Year’s Eve amid the pandemic.

New Year’s Eve restrictions elsewhere

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that a further 20 million people in the country will be placed into the toughest tier of restrictions from Thursday.

Scotland has been under level four — the top tier of the measures — since December 26 and will remain there for at least three weeks. People have been urged to remain at home on New Year’s Eve.

Ireland will move to its highest level of restrictions on Thursday, banning all household visits, closing all non-essential retail and limiting travel to five kilometers.

Germany is under a partial lockdown until January 10, with most shops closed along with schools, restaurants, and cultural and leisure facilities.

The Netherlands is currently under a lockdown, which is set to last until January 19.

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