Marseille, Bordeaux impose new curbs to limit virus surge


Bordeaux (AFP)

The French cities of Marseille and Bordeaux and their wider regions on Monday announced a series of measures to limit public gatherings as French Covid-19 infections soar.

Bordeaux, in the southwest, and the Mediterranean city of Marseille have emerged as virus hotspots along with the capital Paris, heightening fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases despite face mask requirements and strict social distancing rules.

Marseille is France's second-biggest city, Bordeaux its ninth.

Group and family gatherings will now be limited to 10 people or less in Bordeaux and the surrounding Gironde area, including in open spaces, the regional prefect Fabienne Boccio told a press conferences.

Hours later, almost identical measures were announced for Marseille and its region, Bouches du Rhone, with prefect Christophe Mirmand calling the health situation there "very worrying".

Standing at bars will no longer be allowed, nor will discotheques or private parties for weddings and other family events.

The maximum number of people allowed to watch sporting matches and large events is now 1,000, sparking a string of cancellations for large gatherings planned over coming weeks.

Companies are being urged to have employees work from home whenever possible, and bus services will be reinforced during rush hours to avoid crowding.

Only two people will be allowed to visit retirement home residents each day in Marseille -- and only two per week in Bordeaux -- in a bid to limit Covid-19 outbreaks among those most vulnerable.

Additional gendarme and riot police units will be deployed to enforce the measures, Boccio said, and a fresh review of the situation will be made within three weeks.

"If we have to toughen the measures, I will, but if we can lighten them, I'll do that as well," she said.

"All the warning signals are flashing red," added Yann Bubien, director of the Bordeaux university hospital and a member of the government's scientific advisory council on the coronavirus.

His hospital has 77 Covid patients, of whom 24 are in intensive care, "a very rapid increase over the past 10 days," he said.

On Saturday, France reported 10,561 cases in 24 hours, the highest number since large-scale testing began. The death toll stands at nearly 31,000.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said Friday that while the crisis was "worsening," he wanted to avoid a new nationwide lockdown that would again cripple the economy.