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.

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Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones.