Paris facing tight coronavirus curbs as cases surge

Paris facing tight coronavirus curbs as cases surge

Authorities in Paris are likely to tighten coronavirus curbs in and around the French capital following a worrying surge in the number of COVID-19 infections.

Cafes and bars could be ordered to shut down as early as Monday after Minister of Health Olivier Veran announced only improved COVID-19 infection rates could prevent the city from being placed under maximum coronavirus alert.

If recent trends were confirmed “we’ll have no choice”, he warned on Thursday, saying new curbs would mean “no more family gatherings, no more evenings out, and a total closure of bars”.

Figures from the regional health agency ARS show new coronavirus cases remaining above 250 per 100,000 people in Paris, a threshold triggering the maximum alert protocol which has already hit the southern cities of Aix-en-Provence and Marseille and their surroundings, as well as the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe.

“There is no justification for denial,” Aurelien Rousseau, ARS director for the Paris region, said on Sunday. “The numbers are what they are, and they are weighing heavily,” he wrote on Twitter.

On Saturday, France reported a total of 16,972 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing, with overall infections now standing at 629,509. It also registered 49 more fatalities, bringing its total death toll from COVID-19 to 32,198.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told reporters on Sunday ‘it’s not a done deal, there is still work being done, we’re still talking’ [File:Charles Platiau/Reuters] ‘Tough’ measures

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin acknowledged the looming closure of bars and cafes would be “tough” for everyone concerned.

A poll published on Sunday by BFM television showed that 61 percent of people living in Paris and its suburbs were in favour of complete closure of bars, which are currently authorised to remain open until 10pm.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told reporters on Sunday “it’s not a done deal, there is still work being done, we’re still talking”. But she also conceded that the health situation was “very serious”.

Meanwhile, restaurant owners are still hoping they can avoid a similar fate, at least for now.

The health authorities are evaluating a proposal submitted by restaurants for voluntary restrictions – including registering the home addresses of their clients and limiting the number of people at each table – before submitting their recommendations to the government.

Other large French cities including Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Toulouse are also hovering near the maximum alert threshold and could also face similar measures as in the capital.

Employer organisation UMIH, which represents cafes, hotels, restaurants, brasseries and discos, has warned that 15 percent of France’s 220,000 establishments in the sector is threatened with bankruptcy because of coronavirus restrictions, with up to 250,000 staff facing unemployment.

The government has said it will take every precaution necessary to avoid a new state of emergency that would require a generalised lockdown such as the one imposed at the height of the outbreak, from mid-March to mid-May.