What are the new restrictions in and around Marseille?

Local authorities in Marseille and the Bouches-du-Rhône département have revealed a series of new measures to stem the spiralling Covid-19 rates in the south western city.

What are the new restrictions in and around Marseille?
People wearing face masks stroll in the old harbour of Marseille, southestern France, on August 26th. Photo: AFP

The new measures were announced by Christophe Mirmand, head of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, during a press conference on Monday.

“We're living under exceptional circumstances,” Mirmand said, as he laid out the new rules set to help slow down the rising spread of Covid-19 in the region.


French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Friday asked regional heads of Bouches-du-Rhône, Nouvelle Aquitaine and in the overseas territory Guadeloupe to present new and stricter measures to limit the rapidly rising spread of the virus in their areas.

The three areas were outlined as those in direst need of restrictive measures to curb the spread and alleviate pressure on the areas' hospitals.

Here's a look at the new rules in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, home to the bustling port-city of Marseille.


Gatherings of more than 10 people on beaches and in green areas such as parks were banned in all towns and cities in the area where the infection rate had surpassed 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, meaning local authorities had registered at least 100 new cases per day over the last seven days.

“I do not rule out taking more restrictive measures from 8pm in the evening,” Mirmand said.

Events of more than 1,000 people were also banned in the département, compared to the nationwide limit which is set at 5,000.


In the 27 towns in Bouche-du-Rhône with the highest infection rate everyone leaving their home between 6am until 2am will need to wear a mask at all times, with the exemption of when in vast open spaces like big parks, the prefect said.

Local authorities would publish the full list of areas soon, he said, and this list would be based on data from the national public health agency Santé Publique France.

In the remaining towns and cities masks must be worn in all crowded public spaces such as markets, outside schools, bus stops and the like, the prefect said, adding to the already-existing nationwide rules making face masks compulsory inside all public spaces and on public transport.

Bars and alcohol

All alcohol consumption in outdoor public spaces after 8pm has been banned across the département.

The annual heritage days events (Journées du Patrimoine) in September was cancelled.

Bars, restaurants and general food shops continue to close at 12.30am, a restrictive measure announced previously in a bid to stem the spread of the virus. Consuming alcohol while standing at bars was now prohibited.

“Checks and sanctions will be ramped up,” Mirmand said, adding that authorities already had issued 52 formal warnings to establishments that had not complied with the rules.

Remote working

The prefect also asked businesses to recommend their employees work from home and warned that authorities would increase the number of checks to see that businesses complied with health rules.


Nursing homes for elderly (Ehpad) in the whole département must limit the number of visits to one per day of two visitors maximum.

Mounting pressure on hospitals

Just before the prefect's announcements, regional health director Philippe De Mester reported that the region's hospitals were reaching the limit of their capacities.

“Over the last 10 days or so, we've seen a rapid increase in hospital admissions in Bouches-du-Rhône,” he said.

“Our intensive care units are under very high pressure.”


In total, 139 people were hospitalised in the region's intensive care units, leaving them with a remaining capacity of 64 beds in total.

In Marseille, the situation was even more strained, with 31 out of 35 intensive care beds already occupied and demand still surging. Hospital director Jean-Olivier Arnaud, of the Hôpitaux de Marseille (AP-HM), said they would add 25 supplementary intensive care beds this week.

Repeating the situation in March and April when hospitals and intensive care units in hotspots saw their capacities overwhelmed has been the worst-case scenario French authorities has worked against since they began to ease lockdown mid May.

This is why the government last week put pressure on local authorities in areas such as Marseille to impose stricter health rules to alleviate pressure on their hospitals.

READ ALSO: Why are Bordeaux and Marseille facing tougher Covid-19 restrictions but not Paris

The region's positivity rate had reached a rate of 8.5 percent, compared to the national rate of 5.4 percent.
In Marseille, the rate was at 10. percent. 

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IN PICTURES: How floods and a bin strike left Marseille submerged in waste

Torrential rain hit the city of Marseille in the south of France on Sunday and Monday, just days after local waste collectors ended a week-long strike, leading to fears of "catastrophic" waste making its way to the ocean.

IN PICTURES: How floods and a bin strike left Marseille submerged in waste
A man stands on a beach covered with cans following heavy rains and a strike of waste collectors in Marseille on October 5th. Photo: Nicolas TUCAT / AFP.

Marseille is located in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, which Météo France placed on red alert for heavy rain and flooding on Monday. Schools in the area shut and people were warned not to leave their homes as two months’ worth of rain fell in a single day in the Mediterranean city, after heavy rains had already caused flooding on Sunday night.

The situation was compounded by the fact that uncollected garbage was blocking storm drains in certain parts of the city – drains which would normally be cleared ahead of heavy rain – and making it more difficult for emergency services to intervene.

The city’s waste collectors had begun clearing the streets on Saturday after an agreement between unions and local authorities put an end to an eight-day strike over an increase to working hours.

But rain over the weekend made the monumental job even more difficult, and the result was that “rivers of rubbish” flowed through the city’s streets on Monday.

“Rubbish is everywhere. It’s a catastrophe,” biologist Isabelle Poitou, director of the MerTerre association, told AFP. “We’re expecting a strong mistral wind which will push the rubbish, which is currently making its way towards the sea, onto the beaches.”

“It’s vital to come and clear the rubbish from the beaches on Tuesday or Wednesday,” she added. “We need to act before the rubbish gets scattered in the sea at the first gust of wind.”

A woman collects waste on a beach after heavy rains and following a strike of waste collectors in Marseille.

A woman collects waste on a beach after heavy rains and following a strike of waste collectors in Marseille. Photo: Christophe SIMON / AFP.

The video below tweeted by BFMTV journalist Cédric Faiche shows the state of a beach in Marseille early on Tuesday morning. “It’s been cleaned several times but cans and different types of plastic continue to arrive…” Faiche wrote.

However, Faiche told BFM there are similar scenes every time there is heavy rain in Marseille, even if the strike has made the situation even worse.

Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin shared a video of the “sad scene” captured in Marseille on Sunday night. “Discussions between trade unions and the city must not make us forget what really matters: we are all responsible for our seas and our oceans!” she said.

“It’s unacceptable,” Christine Juste, deputy mayor in charge of the environment in Marseille told BFM on Tuesday, criticising the “lack of reactivity” in collecting leftover rubbish following the end of the strike on Friday.

“Why wait so long? In the 6th arrondissement, there has been no collection since the announcement that the strike was over,” she said.

IN PICTURES: See how the deluge has left parts of France’s Mediterranean coast submerged

The Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis intercommunal structure, rather than city hall, is in charge of rubbish collection in Marseille.

On Monday morning, the Metropolis dispatched 650 workers to clear away as much waste as possible ahead of the heaviest rainfall which was forecast for the afternoon.

On Monday evening, Marseille’s Mayor Benoît Payan told franceinfo that 3,000 tonnes of garbage were still yet to be collected in the city. “I asked the Prime Minister this evening to class the zone as a natural disaster,” he added.