Victor Mallet in Paris
France is imposing stricter health controls in Paris and other cities – including a temporary closure of bars and restaurants in Marseille and Guadeloupe within days – in an attempt to curb a rise in the number of Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations, health minister Olivier Véran announced on Wednesday night.
“Let’s be clear. This situation is deteriorating across the board … The circulation of the virus continues to rise strongly,” he told a televised news conference. “If we don’t take measures rapidly we will reach a critical situation in a few weeks.”
With more than two-thirds of French departments now classified as “red” or “alert” for rapid circulation of coronavirus, Mr Véran introduced a new classification system adding three extra and more severe categories based on the number of new infections, the proportion of elderly people affected and the strain on hospitals: high alert, maximum alert and state of health emergency.
No city or region is so far in the emergency category, while the Marseille-Aix-en-Provence metropolis in the south of France and the island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean are on “maximum alert”, requiring a two-week closure of bars and restaurants and other measures.
Paris and its immediate suburbs, Lille, Toulouse, Saint-Etienne, Rennes, Rouen, Grenoble and Montpellier, are listed as being on “high alert”, which cuts the number of people allowed in an outdoor gathering to 1,000 from 5,000, although Mr Véran would not be drawn on whether this would apply to the French Open tennis tournament under way at Roland Garros.
Bars will have to close by 10pm at the latest from Monday, and gyms and sports centres will also shut, while working at home is again encouraged.