Bar closures and compulsory masks in Marseille as Covid-19 infections rise

Local authorities in the département of Bouches-du-Rhône - a 'red zone' for coronavirus infections - have announced extra restrictions for the Mediterranean city of Marseille.

Bar closures and compulsory masks in Marseille as Covid-19 infections rise
Marseille's Vieux Port area. Photo: AFP

The area around Marseille is one of 10 départements in France that are now 'red zones' because of the number of new Covid-19 cases that they are reporting.

The designation as a red zone gives local authorities extra powers to impose restrictions if they feel it is necessary, but so far few have done so.

READ ALSO What does it mean if my département is a red zone?

Now Christophe Mirmand, the Préfet (Prefect) of the Bouches-du-Rhône area, has announced that all restaurants and bars will close from 11pm, curbing the vibrant nightlife that is a feature of Marseille.

He has also announced that masks will be compulsory in all outdoor areas of the city of Marseille, following in the footsteps of Toulouse and Nice, which have introduced the same rule.

Around 400 communes in France have introduced some sort of rule on mask-wearing in the open air, but in most places it is only compulsory in certain areas. National law makes masks compulsory in all indoor public spaces at risk of a €135 fine, while from September 1st they will also be compulsory in all indoor shared work spaces.

Mirmand said he hoped his measures would be seen as proportionate and he did not want to be seen as “bullying” the population.

READ ALSO MAP: Where in France are Covid-19 infections rising?

He told FranceInfo: “The biological indicators available to us testify to the difficulty we are facing – an increase at the regional level in the incidence rate for new cases of Covid, which is about 90 per 100,000 inhabitants, but with much higher figures in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, where the incidence rate reaches 131.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.

“This is a situation that therefore justifies action.

“When these figures are analysed a little more closely, this increase is seen more particularly in the young adult population.

“This is therefore a good indication of a situation that is becoming more difficult and worsening, and which therefore requires that preventive measures be taken at the local level to avoid the risk of a wider spread of the virus. And this is why I would describe the measure I took as appropriate.”

All bars, restaurants and food shops in the département must now be closed between 11pm and 6am.

Local authorities in Marseille strongly oppose the new rules, which they say will have a negative economic and psychological impact on the city, especially on the hospitality sector which was badly hit by the lockdown in the spring.

“We are still in summer time, it is still very hot, there are people here with small, even unsanitary apartments. We cannot ask people not to gather,” newly elected Mayor Michèle Rubirola (Green Party) told French media after the decision was made.

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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.