Covid-19: Paris placed on ‘maximum alert’ – but restaurants to stay open

The French government declared Paris a 'maximum alert' area on Sunday because of increasing Covid-19 infections and rising hospital patient numbers. Bars will close but restaurants will be able to stay open under strict conditions, the government announced.

Covid-19: Paris placed on 'maximum alert' - but restaurants to stay open
Restaurants in Paris could stay open under strict health regulations. Photo: AFP

Paris and its surrounding suburbs have been on tenterhooks since Thursday, when the health minister Olivier Véran announced that if the situation did not improve by Sunday the area would be put on maximum alert, which has meant the closure of all bars and restaurants.

The government confirmed on Sunday night that the alert level for the capital and surrounding area would be raised raised from “heightened” to “maximum” level.

The maximum alert level applies to the city of Paris and the petite couronne – the départements of Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne and Hauts-de-Seine.

What this means in terms of new restrictions on daily life was unclear. Full details of the new measures will be announced on Monday and come into effect on Tuesday.

The government did announce that restaurants would be allowed to stay open if strict sanitary measures were in place. However bars were likely to be forced to close.

The Paris police chief Didier Lallement on Monday morning announced more details of the new measures – find the full details here.

“The government received this [Sunday] evening the opinion of the Public Health Council concerning the opening of restaurants,” the prime minister's office told AFP.

“A reinforced health protocol applicable in heightened alert zones as well as in maximum alert zones will be put in place and will allow restaurants to remain open.”

The compromise will also apply to Marseille, which has been on maximum alert level for a week and where all bars and restaurants were ordered to close last Monday.

The government also announced that university lecture theatres would have their capacity cut to 50 percent in areas classed as “heightened” and “maximum” alert.

In order to try and avoid another nationwide lockdown, the French government has come up with a local alert system, which gives each area of the country an alert rating based on factors including the number of new Covid-19 cases, the number of cases among vulnerable people and the situation in local hospitals.

EXPLAINED How France's Covid-19 alert system works

Each level carries with it different restrictions, from a limit of 30 people at wedding at the lowest level to the complete closure of bars and restaurants at the highest level.

However the total closure has proved highly controversial, with many in the hospitality industry protesting that this will kill off many businesses already weakened by the two-month lockdown in spring.

Following a crisis meeting with the hospitality industry union Union des métiers et des industries de l'hôtellerie, the French Prime Minister's office announced a compromise of extra strict health conditions which would allow restaurants in maximum alert areas to stay open.

A decree with the full measures will be published on Monday, but these could include extra rules on physical distancing and the compulsory provision of customer information for contact tracing.

Bars in Paris are already restricted to closing at 10pm, but as many bars in the city serve food or also function as cafés, the early closing has not been affecting large numbers of businesses. A decree from the Préfecture de Police clarified that the restriction is based on the licence type held.

Paris has already closed all its gyms and leisure centres, but the city's swimming pools remain open.


In his briefing on Thursday, Véran warned people to cut down their socialising and said that people who can work from home should do so.



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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.