What to expect this week for the 20 areas of France on ‘alert’ for new restrictions

What to expect this week for the 20 areas of France on 'alert' for new restrictions
Is Paris heading back into lockdown? Photo: Joel Saget/AFP
Over the course of this week, 20 French départements which have been placed on heightened alert because of high numbers of Covid cases will decide which extra health restrictions to bring in.

On Thursday, February 28th, French Prime Minister Jean Castex declared 20 départements of France as areas of particular concern due to high numbers of Covid cases and pressure on hospital services, and warned them to expect further restrictions.

The départements concerned are; Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône, Drôme, Essonne, Eure et Loir, Hauts-de-Seine, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle, Nord, Oise, Paris, Pas-de-Calais, Rhône, Seine-et-Marne, Seine-Saint-Denis, Somme, Val d’Oise, Val-de-Marne, Var and Yvelines.

READ ALSO IN DETAIL The 20 départements on alert and their latest health stats

So if you live there, what to expect?

This week will see consultations between local and national authorities on the shape the new restrictions will take.

Two of the départements he mentioned – Alpes-Maritimes and Nord – already have some restrictions in place while this weekend saw the first weekend lockdown in Dunkirk, Nice and 62 other French Riviera towns.

Elsewhere the situation is the same as the rest of France with a 6pm curfew and the closure of bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, gyms and tourist sites – for now.

What will the restrictions be?

It is up to local authorities to make suggestions, which will then be discussed with national government. The government wants to make the decision in consultation, but there could be flashpoints between local and national authorities.

Castex said only that the restrictions should be ‘close’ to those in place in Alpes-Maritimes, which has seen the closure of shops larger than 5,000 square metres, reinforcement of mask rules and the weekend lockdown in some places.

What do local authorities say?

Authorities have made the most radical proposal so far, with the city’s deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire proposing a complete three-week lockdown for the city, describing the 6pm curfew as a ‘half measure that has produced bad results’.

“You can’t force yourself to live in a semi-prison for months. Now you have to make courageous decisions,” he told France Info radio late on Thursday night, adding the city hall would propose the measure to the government.

However he later slightly rowed back on this, saying the three-week lockdown was just a ‘hypothesis’.

The suggestion provoked widespread criticism and accusations that city mayor Anne Hidalgo was ‘electioneering’ ahead of a possible presidential bid in 2022.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said: “I hear very few, if any, scientists say that in three weeks we can wipe out the virus”, suggesting that there may be pushback on this from the government.

Discussions continue on this, with a meetings on Monday between Hidalgo and the city’s arrondissement mayors, plus health and regional authorities from the wider Île-de-France region.

What is the timeframe?

Castex wants new restrictions to be  agreed and in place by Saturday, March 6th – although for Dunkirk, Nice and the Riviera the weekend lockdown has already begun.

In those areas where weekend lockdown has already been agreed, it is in place for the next two weeks initially. The Paris City Hall proposal is for a three-week total lockdown, which would run until March 27th. Other local authorities may propose different timeframes.

What would a weekend lockdown look like?

In Nice and the Riviera, the rules of the lockdown are virtually identical to France’s second nationwide lockdown in November and December.

The measure runs from 6pm on Friday until 6am on Monday, and during the week the 6pm to 6am curfew remains in place. At weekends trips outside the home will only be allowed to essential reasons including grocery shopping, medical appointments and walking the dog – any trip outside the home will require an attestation permission form.

In a slight tweak to the autumn rules, trips outside the home for exercise are permitted for a maximum of 1 hour, within 5km of the home (as opposed to 1km).

Non-essential shops have not been ordered to close, although in a département-wide measure all shops larger than 5,000 square metres are closed, with the exception of food shops and pharmacies.


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