Paris and Marseille placed on highest level of Covid-19 alert as cases rise

Paris and the Marseille area have been classified as "active zones" for Covid-19 by the French government, giving regional authorities extended powers to impose local restrictions.

Paris and Marseille placed on highest level of Covid-19 alert as cases rise
Photo: AFP

decree in the government's Journal Official added the French capital and the Bouches-du-Rhône département –  Marseille and the surrounding area – to a list of areas in France qualified as especially vulnerable because of their “active circulation of the virus.”

“We are observing two départements of particular risk.. Paris and Marseille,” said Director general of Health Jérôme Salomon in an interview with France Inter on Friday.


The areas on the highest level of alert – those recording more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people – only mentions Paris the capital, not the surrounding suburbs or the wider Île-de-France region.

In such “active zones” on the highest level of alert, local préfectures may take restrictive measures to limit the spread of the virus, according to a law from July 9th.

The law lists rules to “prohibit the movement of people and vehicles, as well as access to collective transport” as examples of such measures, along with “regulating access to meeting places and establishments open to the public.”

Health Minister Olivier Véran on Wednesday clarified that this could include closing areas such as markets, restaurants and bars. He also hinted that Marseille and Paris could be bumped up to a higher level of alert in the coming days, following a spike in the number of new cases in the cities.

IN NUMBERS: How worried should we be about the rise of Covid-19 cases in France?

Neither Paris nor Marseille have so far announced any of the extra measures mentioned above, although Marseille's largest library closed on Wednesday after a coronavirus case was traced back to the premises. Authorities asked the more than 3,000 people who had been to the library to get tested.

Health authorities in Paris have discovered 21 new active coronavirus clusters in the capital.

Both Paris and Marseille are on the increasingly long list of cities with rules on compulsory mask-wearing on the streets, on top of the nationwide rule on face-masks inside public spaces.

MAP: Where in France is it compulsory to wear a mask in the street?

Salomon said the reasons for the spike in the number of new coronavirus cases in Paris and Marseille were “logical”.

“These are densely populated urban zones with high flows of people, a lot of (means of) transport and young people with an intense social activity,” he said.

France has seen the number of new coronavirus cases in France steadily increase over the past weeks. Health authorities on Thursday reported 2,669 new positive cases in 24 hours – beating Wednesday's record as the highest daily tally registered since May.

France has ramped up testing programme over the past months, currently testing over 600,000 people per week (up from roughly  200,000 at the end of May), but health authorities say the increased testing alone cannot account for the rise.

Young people represented the largest chunk of the new cases, the national health agency said in their weekly statement published on Thursday.

MAP: Where in France are Covid-19 cases rising?

Twenty-one départements were on Friday classified as in a situation of 'heightened vulnerability', either 'moderate' or 'high', according to Santé Publique France. 

The health agency said “almost a third of (France's) départements exceed the threshold of 10 per 100,000 inhabitants,” the limit set for an area to be considered as of concern, “particularly in Ile-de-France and Provence-Alpes-Côte d´Azur.”

“Several départements in these two regions have sharply increasing rates and are approaching the alert threshold (50/100 000),” they wrote.

So far almost 30,400 people have died of coronavirus in France – 17 in the past 24 hours – and 374 are presently in intensive care.

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French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With France in the middle of a new wave of Covid-19, the country's health minister has urged the public to once again wear face masks on public transport and in crowded spaces.

French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With cases on the rise again, French Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon said she is “[asking] the French to put masks back on in transport” in an interview with RTL on Monday, 

For the time being, however, she stressed it was just advice, rather than an obligation, and masks have in fact been recommended on public transport since the legal requirement to wear them was lifted in May. 

However with France reporting over 50,000 daily cases of Covid-19 the government is clearly concerned by the current wave of the pandemic.

Bourguignon said that “we must protect ourselves and protect others,” adding that wearing a mask is “a civic gesture.”

She urged people to don their masks as soon as they see a crowded train or station.

READ MORE: Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

In addition to public transport, Bourguignon is also asking the French to once again mask-up in “all crowded, enclosed areas.”

Currently, masks are only required in hospitals, health centres and places that have vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. They are recommended in crowded spaces where it is impossible to practice social distancing.