‘No more slackening’ warns French PM as two more cities move to maximum Covid-19 alert

Two more French cities have been moved to 'maximum alert' status as Covid-19 cases continue to rise, bringing the total number on the highest alert level to eight, as the prime minister warned that this is 'the reality of the second wave'.

'No more slackening' warns French PM as two more cities move to maximum Covid-19 alert
The southern French city of Toulouse is now on maximum alert level. Photo: AFP

The metropole areas of Toulouse and Montpellier were on Sunday evening declared 'maximum alert' zones – joining Paris, Marseille, Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne on the highest alert level.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex, speaking on France Info on Monday morning, warned: “The French were a little too quick to consider that this virus had disappeared.

“The reality of the second wave is here – there can be no more slackening.”

France's health minister Olivier Véran in his weekly briefing on Thursday warned that both Toulouse and Montpellier were in danger of exceeding the thresholds set by the government to be declared maximum alert areas.

The maximum alert designation brings with it a string of restrictions including the closure of all bars, gyms and sports centres and a limit of 10 people at gatherings in public places. Restaurants and cafés, however, can stay open.

For more details on exactly what maximum alert involved, click here.

But the prime minister said too many people were failing to appreciate that “the second wave is here,” and pointed to Paris and its suburbs, where agents carried out some 500 checks over the weekend to ensure bars were closed as ordered and restaurants were ensuring social distancing measures

“In 95 cases, the agents had to hand out fines,” Castex said.

He also appealed to French people to limit private gatherings in their home.

France's Covid-19 rules limit gatherings in public places to 10 people, but there is no such limit for gatherings a home.

The PM said: “I can not regulate private spaces … but there is someone who can regulate private space: it is the owner, the householder.

“I ask that barrier gestures be respected in private as well as in public space.”

His words echoed those of the health minister, who on Thursday said people should not be having “multiple dinner parties” in their homes.

READ ALSO Social bubbles: Why does France have no Covd-19 laws on events in private spaces?

In a attempt to avoid another nationwide lockdown, France is operating a series of local restrictions, based on the alert level assigned to each area.

An area is declared a maximum alert zone once it has passed three criteria; more than 250 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people, more than 100 cases per 100,000 of people in vulnerable groups and pressure on local hospitals with more than 30 percent of intensive care beds occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Marseille was the first area to be placed on this alert, followed by Paris, while Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne were declared on maximum alert on Thursday. On Monday it was announced that Marseille's alert level has been extended until October 27th

The measures are introduced for 15 days and then the situation is reviewed.

Alert levels are assigned on a metropole basis – the city and its surrounding urban areas.

In Montpellier this involves the city itself plus the communes of Saint-Gély-du-Fesc, Saint-Clément-de-Rivière, Teyran, Palavas-les-Flots, Saint-Aunès, Mauguio and Montarnaud.

In Toulouse it is the city plus Colomiers, Tournefeuille, Blagnac, Plaisance-du-Touch, Cugnaux, Balma, Castanet-Tolosan, Saint-Orens-de-Gameville, Labège, Aucamville, Launaguet, L'Union, Portet-sur-Garonne, Ramonville-Saint-Agne, Auzeville-Tolosane and Quint-Fonsegrives.

The new measures come into force on Tuesday, October 13th.

Castex also added that a new version of France's contact tracing app StopCovid would be released on October 22nd.

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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.