Weekend lockdown imposed along French Riviera to stem Covid-19 surge

People sit on the beach of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, on February 21, 2021.
People sit on the beach of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, on February 21, 2021. © Eric Gaillard, Reuters

France will apply a localised lockdown over the next two weekends in coastal areas of its southeastern Alpes-Maritimes department, Prefect Bernard Gonzalez announced on Monday. He said monitoring at airports and at the Italian border would also be stepped up and the Covid-19 vaccination campaign accelerated in the department, hard-hit by a surge of infections.


Gonzalez added that stores larger than 5,000 square metres would be closed.

The coastal area affected by the lockdown, stretching from Théoule-sur-Mer to Menton, includes Nice and other famous resorts such as Cannes and Antibes.

Residents will be allowed to go out for one hour daily so long as they stay within a radius of five kilometres from their homes during the lockdown which will start at 6pm on Fridays and end at 6am on Mondays.

The department currently has the highest rate of Covid-19 infections in France, with 557 new cases per week per 100,000 residents, compared to 197 per 100,000 nationally, according to Covidtracker.fr.

The outbreak in Nice had been described as out of control and spreading much faster than elsewhere in France, with the city recording 700 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Health Minister Olivier Véran said after visiting a Nice hospital this weekend that the measures could include a stricter form of the curfew imposed nationwide in France or a weekend lockdown in the city.

“Consultations will be conducted over the weekend to take additional measures to stem the epidemic, ranging from a reinforced curfew to local lockdown at weekends,” Véran had said.

France has so far avoided imposing a third nationwide lockdown to fight the virus, in contrast with some of its neighbours, in what analysts see as a risky gamble by President Emmanuel Macron to allow the economy to gain some steam.

Senior French hospitals official Remi Salomon described the epidemic on BFMTV as “out of control” in the region and said measures taken in recent weeks have not been sufficient.

Local right-wing MP Eric Ciotti had told the Nice Matin newspaper that the decision appeared to have already been taken and a weekend lockdown was on the cards.

The measure had long been urged by Nice’s high-profile Mayor Christian Estrosi, also a member of right-wing party The Republicans, even if his opinion is not shared by all fellow mayors along the coast.

Currently mainland France has a nightly curfew beginning at 6pm. The only part of the country with a lockdown in place is the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, where the measure has been in effect since February 5.

The curfew has been credited with keeping a lid on infection rates but government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on French TV late Saturday the latest trends were “not good”.

After a slow start, France’s vaccination campaign has gained some momentum with more than 2.5 million people receiving a dose and, of those, over 1.1 million have had both doses.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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