France will put more cities on high alert after daily cases of coronavirus surpass 18,000 for a second day in a row, with restrictions set beyond Paris and Marseille.
The number of new infections and patients in intensive care prompted the authorities to raise the status of Lyon, the third largest city in France, as well as Lille, Saint-Étienne and Grenoble from Saturday, said Minister of Health Olivier Veran at a briefing Thursday. Bars, casinos and exhibitions will close in affected cities, while restaurants, cinemas and museums will apply tighter controls.
The government will make it easier for businesses to access aid, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said at the briefing, adding that the government will offer support as long as the crisis lasts.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government has repeatedly opposed a new general lockdown and, like countries like Spain and Ireland, is counting on measures such as limits on nighttime activities to tackle the virus. A number of European countries, including Austria and the Netherlands, saw a record daily increase in new infections on Thursday, and governments in the region are grappling with the dilemma of how to control the virus without killing their economies .
“The health situation continues to deteriorate in France,” said Veran. “The health situation and the economic situation are two sides of the same coin.”
“The health pressure is increasing in Paris hospitals and in the Paris region, forcing to postpone care,” said Veran.
The number of patients in intensive care in Paris because of the virus has tripled since the beginning of September. Covid patients in intensive care have also tripled in regions such as Marseille and Toulouse.
The alert level in two other cities, Toulouse and Montpellier, could be raised to the maximum by Monday if the virus figures do not improve in the coming days, according to Veran.
In Marseille, a local court last week upheld an order to close bars and restaurants, before the government would allow restaurants to reopen if stricter health measures were followed. In a setback for Spain’s efforts to contain the outbreak, a court in Madrid on Thursday barred the regional government from enforcing traffic restrictions in one of Europe’s main virus hotspots.
– With the help of William Horobin