Local lockdowns: What’s happening in Nice and could other parts of France follow suit?

The southern French city of Nice has imposed a weekend lockdown due to a worryingly high Covid-19 infection rate and severe pressure on local hospitals. Is this the beginning of a new stage of localised lockdowns in France?

Local lockdowns: What's happening in Nice and could other parts of France follow suit?
Health minister Olivier Véran, right, in Nice with city mayor Christian Estrosi. Photo: AFP

What's happening in Nice?

The city and the surrounding Alpes-Maritime département are experiencing very high levels of Covid cases – 700 cases per 100,000 of the population which is more than three times the national average.

Local hospitals are so overwhelmed that patients, including intensive care patients, have had to be transferred out of the region.

Senior French hospitals official Remi Salomon described the epidemic on TV channel BFM as “out of control”.

At the weekend Nice Mayor Cristian Estrosi described the situation in local hospitals as “catastrophic”. He said intensive care units were close to saturation and that patients were having to be transferred elsewhere.


So what will be done?

Health minister Olivier Véran visited the city on Saturday to assess the situation and consult with local officials.

On Monday, the Préfet of the Alpes-Maritime département announced a string of extra measures, including a weekend lockdown for Nice and the surrounding area.

What do local officials want?

Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, has been calling for a complete lockdown at weekends and also wants more checks on people travelling to the area because Nice is a favoured holiday spot. Not all local leaders agree that a lockdown is necessary.

Could similar measures be extended elsewhere?

France tried localised restrictions over the summer and early autumn, but since October almost all measures have been nationwide – apart from the early introduction of the 6pm curfew in some parts of eastern France.

The extra restrictions in Nice could be the beginning of a shift in policy with other hotspots also facing extra restrictions.

Epidemiology professor Mahmoud Zureik told Le Parisien: “A weekend-only lockdown would be a first in mainland France.

“To put it plainly, if it works on the Côte d'Azur, an application in areas of high tension could be envisaged: Moselle, the Hauts-de-France and even the greater Paris Île-de-France region.”

The eastern département of Moselle has recorded a worryingly high level of the South African and Brazilian variants, although no new restrictions were imposed on the département after Véran visited it last week. The minister did offer more vaccine doses however.

“Nice could be a laboratory for the rest of the country, we would become a field of experimentation for others,” said Professor Charles-Hugo Marquette, the head of pneumology at the Nice's CHU hospital.
“Whatever the decision, the hospital is going to be in trouble.  Already, operations have been postponed, patients transferred – the rate of positive tests is enormous, around 22 percent. Mathematically, this implies other seriously ill patients to come.”


Member comments

  1. This new measure only speaks to the urgency of administering vaccinations more rapidly and efficiently throughout France! The delays are going to result in more sickness and deaths unfortunately!Locals here in Montpellier in the highest-risk group cannot even gain rdv’s for their jabs. The French State has failed it’s citizens IMO. I’ve been told Feb/March for next group (moi). Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Have already emailed Macron, Castex, Veran and local major. Castex Chief of Staff replied (only one so far) without answering my pointed questions: 1)Why is it taking SO long? 2)Why teachers aren’t a priority like in US? 3)When can group 2 citizens expect their jab? Response ONLY political fluff what’s already in the all the Press. Yet Sarkozy at 65 got his jab already! Look at US and UK Israel vac rates! It’s a travesty…WRITE YOUR GOVT LEADERS! We are being lied to and cheated.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

An investigation has revealed that tap water supplied to some 12 million people in France was sometimes contaminated with high levels of pesticides last year.

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

Data from regional health agencies, and collated by Le Monde, found that supplies to about 20 percent of the population, up from 5.9 percent the year previously, failed to consistently meet regional quality standards. 

The study highlighted regional differences in tap water quality. Hauts-de-France water was the most likely to be affected, with 65 percent of the population there drinking water contaminated by unacceptable pesticide levels. In Brittany, that level fell to 43 percent; 25.5 percent in the Grand-Est, and 25 percent in the Pays de la Loire.

Occitanie, in southwest France, meanwhile, showed the lowest level of non-compliance with standards, with just 5.1 percent of the region’s population affected by high pesticide levels in their tap water. However, figures show that 71 percent of people in one département in the region, Gers, were supplied with water containing high levels of pesticides.

Regional discrepancies in testing, including what chemicals are tested for, mean that results and standards are not uniform across France. Tap water in Haute-Corse is tested for 24 pesticide molecules; in Hauts-de-Seine, that figure rises to 477. 

One reason for regional testing standards are differences in local agricultural requirements.

Part of the increase in the year-on-year number of households supplied with affected water may also be explained by the fact that tests in many regions now seek to trace more molecules, Le Monde noted.

Water quality standards in France are strict – with a limit for pesticide residues set at 0.1 microgramme per litre, so the “high” levels found in tap water supplies may not represent a danger to health.

The question of the level of health risk to humans, therefore, remains unclear. The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) has not defined a maximum safety level for 23 pesticides or their metabolites. Le Monde cites two metabolites of chloridazone, a herbicide used until 2020 on beet fields, for which only provisional safety levels in tap water have been set. 

Many of these molecules and their long-term effects remain unknown – and “the long-term health effects of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess,” admits the Ministry of Health.

Michel Laforcade, former director general of the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine told Le Monde that health authorities have “failed” on this subject. 

“One day, we will have to give an account,” he said. “It may not be on the same scale as the contaminated blood affair, but it could become the next public health scandal.”

In December 2020, the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) recommended “restricting uses of water” as soon as the 0.1 micrograms per litre quality threshold is exceeded, in cases of residues for which there is no formal maximum health value.

But this principle is not always applied, according to France 2’s Complètement d’enquête programme.

In December 2021, the DGS asked the Haut conseil de la santé publique (HCSP) “for support on the management of health risks associated with the presence of pesticides and pesticide metabolites in water intended for human consumption.”

The HCSP, in response, said that “an active and urgent policy must be implemented to reduce the contamination of resources by pesticides”.