Paris bars and restaurants to close Monday ‘if Covid-19 situation doesn’t improve’

The French health minister on Thursday evening said Covid-19 numbers in the capital were looking worrying enough that that local authorities might have to close down bars and restaurants "as of Monday."

Paris bars and restaurants to close Monday 'if Covid-19 situation doesn't improve'
French Health Minister Olivier Véran introduced the new five-level alert system for Covid-19 last week during a press conference. Photo: AFP
“We are in a deteriorating situation and we need to act,” Olivier Véran said as he laid out the latest Covid-19 developments in France during a press conference.
“If we don’t take measures to slow down the virus,” Véran said, the consequences would come in 15 days, and there would be “more hospitalisations.”

It was a keenly-awaited press conference, especially in Paris, Lille, Lyon, Toulouse, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble, where the past week's rising Covid-19 rates had local authorities worried they would be subject to stricter measures to counter the spread in their cities.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday met with mayors of all these cities to consult them before making a final decision on what measures to take, after the government had taken hits from local authorities for not having properly consulted with them before last week's announcement.

In the capital, Covid-19 rates by Thursday had surpassed all the three thresholds set by the government to be bumped up to a “maximum alert” level in the five-level alert system introduced by the government last week.

Referring to the latest numbers, Véran said they needed to be studied over the coming days before making a final decision, seeing as the development was so recent.

“If things don't improve, we will have to place Paris on a maximum alert level as of Monday,” Véran said.
That would mean closing down bars and restaurants in Paris and its petite couronne (the suburbs of Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne).
“We will review the situation on Sunday,” the health minister said, and stressed that Paris was not getting special treatment over Marseille, but that it was simply too early days to make the decision.


Other cities
Only Aix-Marseille (Marseille and its metropole) on the French mainland so far has had to close down bars and restaurants, as required in the government’s new alert system introduced last week.
Marseille was, along with Guadeloupe, the only two French areas placed on “maximum alert” and remained there this week.
“We are monitoring maximum alert areas like oil on fire,” Véran said.

He said the situation in five other cities – Lille, Lyon, Grenoble, Toulouse and Saint-Etienne – was developing in a worrying direction, and that the government had told local authorities to take measures to reverse the trend.
Alert levels are done on a metropole level – the city and its surrounding urban area.
“If things degrade further, we might have to decide to bump these areas up to a maximal alert,” he said.
The government later shortened the period to seven days as a compromise, but this period could be extended if the situation had not improved by then.

Véran said the government was striving to keep a close dialogue with local authorities.

Last week's announcement of closing down bars and restaurants in Marseille were met with fury in the city, both from the bar and restaurant sector, but also from local authorities who criticised a lack of dialogue from the government before making the decision.


The health minister said that the measures seemed to have a positive impact and that things were looking slightly better in some of the cities that had tightened their rules – including Marseille.

“I think of Bordeaux, Nice and even in Marseille, even if, and this is important, the numbers are still too high,” Véran said, adding: “It is an improvement that we need to pursue.”
“We have learned how to collectively fight coronavirus,” Véran said, referring to health measures such as mask-wearing and handwashing, but also testing and tracing and political measures such as closing down discos and limiting social gatherings.

“All these measures have helped us lower the virus' contagion,” the health minister said.

READ ALSO Social bubbles: Why does France have no Covid-19 laws on private social events?

“Do not be discouraged if you see that the health situation continues to deteriorate for a few days in your area. Your efforts, they must pay off and they will,” he said.

“If all of us make an effort to reduce our social contacts.. We will be able to push back the virus.”

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France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

Injuries and even deaths while skiing in France have seen a sharp rise in recent years - leading the French government to create a new ski safety campaign.

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

The early part of the ski season in France was dominated by headlines over the lack of snow in popular mountain resorts – but, now that climatic conditions have started to improve for skiers and there is at least some snow, the winter sports season is in gearing up to hit full swing.

READ ALSO Snow latest: Have France’s ski resorts reopened?

Heading into the winter holiday season – French schools in ‘Zone A’ break up for two weeks on February 4th, followed on February 11th by schools in ‘Zone B’, while schools in Zone C finish for the vacation on February 18th – the government has launched an awareness campaign highlighting skiing good practice and how to avoid accidents.

READ ALSO What can I do if I’ve booked a French skiing holiday and there’s no snow?

The Pratiquer l’hiver campaign has advice, posters and videos highlighting safety on the slopes, in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on France’s mountains – where, every year, between 42,000 and 51,000 people have to be rescued, according to the Système National d’Observation de la Sécurité en Montagne (SNOSM)

The campaign, with information in a number of languages including English, covers:

  • on-piste and off-piste safety advice (signalling, avalanche risks, freestyle areas, snowshoes, ski touring, etc.);
  • Help and instructions for children explained in a fun and educational way (educational games, games of the 7 families to be cut out, safety quizzes, advice sheets for sledding, skiing, prevention clips, etc.);
  • physical preparation (warm up before exercise, prepare your muscles and stretch well, also how to adapt the choice of pistes and the speed to your physical condition);
  • equipment and safety (helmet, goggles, sunscreen, etc.);
  • marking and signalling on the slopes (opening and marking of green, blue, red and black slopes, off-piste).

There are 220 ski resorts in France, the world’s second largest ski area, covering more than 26,500 hectares of land, across 30 departements.

In the 2021/22 ski season, totalling 53.9 million ‘ski days’, according to SNOSM, emergency services made 49,622 interventions in France’s ski areas, and 45,985 victims were treated for injuries.

The results show an increase in the number of interventions by ski safety services – a rise of 13 percent compared to the average of the five years prior to the pandemic – and the number of injured, up 8 percent. 

A few incidents on the slopes made the headlines at the time, including the five-year-old British girl who died after an adult skier crashed into her in the Alpine resort of Flaine, and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who died at the age of 37 after an accident while skiing in La Rosière, Savoie.

In total, 12 people died as a result of skiing incidents in France in the 2021/22 ski season. Three died following collisions between skiers, two after hitting an obstacle, and seven as a result of a fall or solo injuries. SNOSM also reported “a significant number of non-traumatic deaths, mostly due to cardiac problems” on France’s ski slopes.

The injuries due to solo falls – which represent 95 percent of all injuries –  on the ski slopes increased 2 percent compared to winter 2018/2019. Collisions between users fell, however (4.8 percent against . 5.6 percent) as did collisions between skiers and other people, and obstacles (0.7 percent compared to 0.85 percent).

The number of fatalities caused by avalanches, however, is at a historic low over the period 2011 to 2021, in part because of a relative lack of snow – leading to a drop in the number of avalanches and fewer people going off-piste, while awareness campaigns are hitting their mark, according to SNOSM.