France places Paris at top of Covid-19 alert level as virus reappears

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                Paris et la banlieue voisine ont été placées en alerte maximale contre le coronavirus lundi, a annoncé dimanche le bureau du Premier ministre, avec la fermeture des bars emblématiques de la ville, alors que les chiffres alarmants d'infection à Covid-19 semblaient laisser au gouvernement français peu de choix.  La mairesse Anne Hidalgo doit présenter d'autres mesures spécifiques lundi matin.
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                                    <p>Les bars de Paris et de trois comtés environnants fermeront mardi dans le cadre de ces mesures, a annoncé le bureau du Premier ministre.  Cependant, les restaurants resteront ouverts avec des «précautions renforcées».

The prime minister’s office added that it recommends “more than ever” that those who can work from home do so and that university lecture theaters not be more than half full.

France reported 16,972 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday alone, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing.

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

“There is no justification for the denial,” said the director of the ARS for the Paris region, Aurélien Rousseau, on Sunday. “The numbers are what they are, and they weigh heavily,” he tweeted.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was to set out on Monday morning other specific measures, which would come into force on Tuesday and last for 15 days.

‘We are French, we love to drink’

The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, admitted that the imminent closure of the bars would be “hard” for all those concerned.

“We are French, we like to drink, eat, live, smile and kiss each other,” he told LCI and Europe 1 broadcasters on Sunday.

“But we also do it because people want it,” he added.

BFM television published a poll on Sunday indicating that 61% of residents of Paris and its suburbs were in favor of a complete closure of bars, which are currently allowed to remain open until 10 p.m.

Other large French cities, including Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Toulouse, are also approaching the maximum alert threshold and measures similar to those in the capital could also be reserved for them.

Last week, restaurants and bars were closed for a fortnight in Marseille, the southern city at the epicenter of the second wave, sparking protests and an unsuccessful legal challenge.

The employers’ organization UMIH, which represents cafes, bars, hotels, restaurants, brasseries and nightclubs, has warned that 15% of the 220,000 French establishments in the sector are threatened with bankruptcy due to viral restrictions, with up to 250,000 employees faced with unemployment.

The government has said it will take all necessary precautions to avoid a new state of emergency that would require a widespread lockdown like the one imposed at the height of the outbreak, from mid-March to mid-May.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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