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Hundreds booked for Covid violations as mass French rave ends

More than 1,200 revellers were booked for breaking coronavirus restrictions as an illegal rave in northwestern France ended on Saturday after more than two days of partying that saw clashes with police.

Hundreds booked for Covid violations as mass French rave ends
French Gendarmes break up the rave near a disused hangar in Lieuron on January 2, 2021. JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP
Police had failed to stop the underground event, set up in two warehouses in Lieuron, south of Rennes in Brittany on Thursday, which drew around 2,500 people.
 
But the prosecutors office said police had detained two people, both born in 1998, neither of whom had any previous convictions, as part of efforts to identify the organisers.   
 
They were also carrying out a search at one address and had so far turned up a sum of money that appeared on first analysis to be part of the proceeds from the event, and drugs, said prosecutor Philippe Astruc.
 
Police had seized the material and had also booked more than 1,200 for a variety of offences, he added.
 
Such mass gatherings are strictly prohibited across France to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and a nationwide 8:00 pm curfew — which was not lifted for New Year — applies across the country.
 
Techno music had blared out during the night from the warehouses, which had been transformed into illegal nightclubs for partygoers who had flocked to the site from across France and even abroad.
 
 The local prefecture said on Saturday the music had been switched off and sound systems dismantled after two nights and the first revellers began leaving the site before dawn.
   
By 10:15 am it was under the control of police, the local prefecture said. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a tweet that police had seized a truck, sound equipment and generators from the site of the “illegal rave party”.
 
The large police presence at the site had led to the break-up of the event “without violence”, he added.
 
 
French Gendarmes evacuate the last partygoers who attended the rave. JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP
 
The regional prefect, Emmanuel Berthier, said 800 people had been booked specifically for coronavirus-related offences such as failing to respect the curfew restrictions or wear masks, or for participating in an illegal assembly.
 
Police had fined several hundred others for use of narcotics, he told reporters.
 
'We had to party' 
 
Police on access roads were checking all those leaving the site, on foot or in vehicles, using torches to check their eyes for signs of drugs use, an AFP photographer said.
 
 
French Gendarmes pat down a reveller after breaking up the rave in Lieuron about 40km (around 24 miles) south of Rennes, on January 2, 2021.  JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP
 
Police reinforcements continued to arrive and close off the site in a calm atmosphere on Saturday morning, the photographer said.
 
“It's been a year since we could do anything,” said 24-year-old partygoer Antoine. The salesman was part of a group of five from Brittany that attended the rave.
 
With drawn faces but with beers still in their hands, the group said they “had come to celebrate the 31st here because it was a huge party”.
 
“We knew what we were risking… we had to party, for a year everything has been stuck,” said one of the group, a 20-year-old waitress.
 
Alexis, a 22-year-old baker, said “at one point you say to yourself 'I am going to force my New Year'.”
 
He added that the rave had even been reported in the New York Times, saying “it was the biggest party of the year”.
 
'Lives in danger'
 
French authorities have been worried about mass rave parties throughout the pandemic, but New Year's Eve was a particular concern.
 
On Thursday night the police had tried to “prevent the event but faced fierce hostility from many partygoers” who set one of their cars on fire and threw bottles and stones, the prefecture said Friday.
 
First aid workers had distributed hand gel and masks at the event to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus.
 
 
A man undergoes a rapid antigen test for the Covid-19 after the evacuation by French Gendarmes of the last partygoers who attended the rave in Lieuron about 40km (around 24 miles) south of Rennes, on January 2, 2021.  JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP
 
The regional health authority in Brittany noted the “high risk of the spread of Covid-19” at the event, and called on those who took part to undergo coronavirus tests and self-isolate immediately for seven days.
 
The prefecture said in a tweet that a testing centre had been set up in a gymnasium in Lieuron.
 
“They have put their lives in danger, their health, they must now protect those around them,” it said.
 
The French government, facing the threat of a new wave of Covid-19 infections, announced on Friday it was extending its overnight curfew by two hours in 15 regions to help combat the virus, starting it at 6:00 pm instead of 8:00pm.
 
The country recorded around 20,000 new cases and 133 deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of fatalities to almost 64,800.
 
 
 

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 90,000 per day, with 133,000 recorded in the past 24 hours – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 67 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – up 32 percent from last week.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The Minister of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, said she is “asking the French to wear masks on public transport once again” during an interview with RTL on Monday, June 27th and the Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has also recommended this. She also recommended wearing a mask in all other enclosed crowded areas, as a “civic gesture.” However, she did not refer to the request as a government mandated obligation.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing. In recent days several public transport operators have changed their messaging from saying that masks are merely recommended to be ‘strongly recommended for the protection of everyone’.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

A recent poll for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed that 71 percent of people are in favour of making masks compulsory on public transport again.

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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