France puts seven more départements on ‘red’ Covid-19 alert

France puts seven more départements on 'red' Covid-19 alert
People stroll down Bordeaux's main shopping street Sainte-Catherine, where wearing a mask is compulsory to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Photo: AFP
French authorities placed seven more départements covering major cities such as Lille, Strasbourg and Dijon on the highest level of alert after coronavirus infections accelerated.

Of France's 101 mainland and overseas départements, 28 are now considered “red zones” where authorities will be able to impose exceptional measures to slow the number of new coronavirus cases.

Paris and the Rhone département encompassing the southeastern city of Lyon were the first to be placed on high alert by the government on August 14th after infection rates began to climb.

That prompted local officials to require face masks in all public spaces to slow the virus's spread, in hope of avoiding a spike in cases that could again overwhelm hospitals as autumn approaches.

MAP: The French towns and cities where face masks are compulsory outdoors

The Council of State, France's highest administrative court, meanwhile slightly modified orders requiring the wearing of masks in several cities in the eastern Bas-Rhine region, including Strasbourg, and in the southeast Rhone region covering Lyon.

It accepted health ministry arguments that citywide orders imposing the wearing of masks were reasonable, but ordered less restrictive measures in less built-up areas in Bas-Rhin – and in Rhone, changes to the orders to allow for the practice of sports.

The Santé Publique France health agency, which has warned of “exponential” caseload increases, said Saturday that 53 new outbreak clusters had been discovered in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number under investigation to 484.

Officials announced that 43 residents and 11 members of staff had tested positive for the virus in a care home for the elderly in Aveyron, southwest France, with two elderly people being hospitalised.

Twelve more Covid-19 deaths were reported, for an overall toll of 30,698 since the pandemic flared last March.

Concerns over infection risks have already prompted officials to close 22 schools after cases were detected just days after students returned from the summer break last week, and dozens of individual classes have also been suspended.

READ ALSO These are the health rules in place in French schools

On Sunday, the government said pre-school teachers as well as those with deaf students would soon be given transparent masks to facilitate comprehension at a crucial education stage for young children.

“More than 100,000 of these masks will be produced by the end of this month,” the state secretary in charge of people with disabilities, Sophie Cluzel, told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.


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