France steps up its containment measures as new outbreaks appear

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(Bloomberg) – French authorities are demanding stricter enforcement of rules to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including the use of masks, as the country battles a growing number of cases.As some regions move closer to alert levels, the government is pushing local authorities to continue to apply containment measures. Paris and Marseille have already made masks compulsory on some streets and the government is encouraging unions to push for stricter rules within companies. The marathon that was scheduled to take place in the French capital in November was canceled this week.

A further acceleration of cases could stifle an economic recovery by forcing the government to put the regions back into lockdown. The country is already grappling with the impact of previous lockdowns, which inflicted the worst economic crisis on record and a crisis in the labor market. The rise in the number of cases would also hammer tourism into what would normally be its peak season, with the UK warning it could reinstate travel restrictions.

“The only thing that threatens the gradual but real economic recovery in France is the return of the epidemic,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday at an event on the border with Spain. “We must be very careful to respect the rules of vigilance, social distancing and wearing of masks, which will allow us to live with the epidemic while continuing the economic recovery of our country.

The situation is becoming increasingly difficult, with millions of people traveling across the country for the holiday season. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said earlier this week the infection was on the rise, especially among young people, and warned that police would crack down on those who do not follow existing rules.

“I see less vigilance, less discipline, less solidarity, at least within a minority which is nevertheless too large”, declared Mr. Castex during a visit to a hospital in Montpellier, in the south of France. France.

While confirmed infections have increased, the number of deaths has remained relatively under control. French business groups have warned against tougher rules within companies, calling instead for a balance between controlling the pandemic and protecting the economy.

“There are serious questions about the possible strengthening of existing measures,” French small business federation CPME said on Wednesday. “Forcing the wearing of masks systematically and in all circumstances in all companies seems excessive at the present time.”

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