Nice and parts of French Riviera impose weekend lockdown as Covid cases soar

The southern French city of Nice and the surrounding area along the Riviera are subject to a weekend lockdown from Saturday as Covid cases spike and hospitals struggle to cope.

Nice and parts of French Riviera impose weekend lockdown as Covid cases soar
People sit in front of the sea on the "Promenade des anglais" on a sunny day on the French riviera city of Nice, on February 21, 2021. AFP

Following consultations between local and national government, on Monday the prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes département announced extra restrictions to try and contain cases of the virus, which are currently three times higher than the national average.

Prefect Bernard Gonzalez announced a series of measures in a press conference on Monday including a weekend lockdown for Nice and its surrounding urban coastal area.

He said: “All these areas have a high incidence rate compared to the national average. The epidemic situation has deteriorated considerably.

Prefect Bernard Gonzalez. AFP

“If nothing is done, infections will continue to increase.”

The city of Nice has reported an incidence rate of 700 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, more than three times the national average.

The Alpes-Maritimes département will from Tuesday be closing all shops of more than 5,000 square metres – apart from food shops and pharmacies.

Border controls along the Italian border will be stepped up and face masks will be obligatory throughout the whole of the Alpes-Maritimes département in all busy areas. Social distancing rules in public places will be reinforced and thousands of extra vaccine doses will be delivered to the area.

The weekend lockdown concerns only the urban area from Menton on the Italian border along the Riviera coast to Théoule-sur-Mer (marked with a red point in the map below) – including Nice, Cannes, Antibes, Grasse and Cagnes-sur-Mer and will be in force for the next two weekends initially.

The prefect also warned that a week-long lockdown has not been ruled out if the situation did not improve.

From Friday at 6pm to Monday at 6am, people living in this area will be subject to the same rules as during France’s two lockdowns – all trips out of the home are banned apart from a specified list of essential reasons which includes food shopping, medical trips and walking the dog.

Trips out for exercise will be allowed but must be limited to one hour per day and people must stay within 5km of their homes – a slight relaxation of the previous 1km rule.

All trips out of the home will need an attestation permission form stating the reason for being out.

The nationwide 6pm curfew will remain in place during the week.

Mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi, who has been calling for extra checks, declared himself ‘satisfied’ with the new rules.

An extra 4,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine have been delivered to the département and a ‘massive’ vaccination of people aged between 50 and 64 with underlying health conditions, using the AstraZeneca vaccine, will also begin this week, added Gonzalez.

The Alpes-Maritimes coastal area is so far the only part of France to be subject to additional local measures, something that could become widespread in other hotspot areas.

READ ALSO Local lockdowns – what is happening in Nice and could other areas of France follow suit?

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Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”