France’s economy could shrink again in the final three months of this year as a result of the widespread curfews imposed by the government to rein in a second wave of the coronavirus, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned on Friday.

“In the fourth quarter, we risk seeing a negative growth rate,” Le Maire told Europe 1 radio. “But in the same way, I can say that the French economy will see a strong rebound in 2021” and that growth will return to 2019 levels in 2022, the minister said. 

The renewed contraction, coming after many leading economies were pushed into unprecedented recessions by the worldwide lockdowns earlier in the pandemic, “is no surprise,” Le Maire said.

The risk of negative growth at the year-end had been factored into the government’s overall forecast for a contraction in gross domestic product for the whole of 2020, he explained.

“We knew that the pandemic could start-up again and because there is a lot of international uncertainty,” the minister said.

The day before, Prime Minister Jean Castex had said that curfews initially planned for nine major cities, including Paris, would be extended to cover as many as 54 different departments across the country, affecting 46 million people in all. 

At the same time, the premier also announced that economic support packages would similarly be extended. 

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