Three more areas of France placed on ‘lockdown light’ as Covid cases soar

Three additional areas of France have been placed on 'lockdown light' bringing the total number to 19 départements subject to extra restrictions amid a worrying rise in case numbers.

Three more areas of France placed on 'lockdown light' as Covid cases soar
French health minister Olivier Véran. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

On March 19th, the départements of Aisne, Nord, Oise, Pas-de-Calais, Somme, Paris, Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne, Val-d’Oise, Alpes-Maritimes, Eure, Seine-Maritime were placed on lockdown light.

Now from midnight on Friday, March 26th the départements of Rhône (including the city of Lyon), Nièvre and Aube will join them in the extra measures, which will run for an initial period of four weeks.

The extra measures come as France recorded 45,000 new cases of Covid on Wednesday – approaching the 50,000 daily cases seen before France’s second strict, nationwide lockdown was imposed in the autumn.

Announcing the measures, Health Minister Olivier Véran said the situation was now very serious, but that it was ‘too early’ to look at another nationwide lockdown, pointing to wide regional variations in case numbers and hospital pressure. “Finistère is not the same as Seine-Saint-Denis,” he added.

But he warned: “In the coming days, the pressure on the health system will continue to increase.”

The rules in the ‘lockdown light’ areas are not as strict as the lockdowns in spring or autumn, but non-essential shops are closed, travel between regions banned and the attestation permission form needed for some trips out of the home.

Schools remain open, although in high schools (lycées) teaching moves to half online and half in-person classes.

After rising case numbers in schools, especially in the Paris region, there had been calls for them to be closed, but Véran reiterated that this would be a last resort for the government.

READ ALSO These are the rules in the areas of France on ‘lockdown light’

The government has also launched a new communications campaign urging people to take any socialising outdoors and avoid meeting people inside.

Véran said: “This is no lockdown. There are fifty shades of measures that all take into account the epidemic situation and what we know about the virus.”

The situation in the greater Paris Île-de-France region, which has now been on ‘lockdown light’ for a week, is particularly worrying.

“The pressure on hospitals has reached a critical level” in the Paris region, Véran said. 

“There are 1,400 Covid patients in intensive care, the patients are younger, sometimes without underlying illnesses.

“The profile of people who arrive in ICUs has changed. We’re seeing an increased risk of being admitted into ICU for people between 15 and 67 years old.”

Véran said 2,200 new hospital beds will be added to the 1,500 already existing in the greater Paris region, of which Covid patients now occupy 1,400.

The health minister said hospitals had deprogrammed between 35 and 40 percent of their scheduled medical procedures, aiming to reach 80 percent.


Member comments

  1. Among our French neighbours and acquantances there seems little resistance to getting the jab. We have spoken to various workmen and women, some in their thirties or older and all say that they will take the vaccine, We’ve had our first Pfizer jab with no side effects but perhaps the Astra is not so popular and people are a bit wary of it.

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French military bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

The French military has banned Russian nationals from visiting the Chateau de Vincennes, a medieval fortress, tourist attraction and military site on the edge of Paris, due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, officials told AFP.

French military bans Russians from chateau over Ukraine war

Once the residence of French kings and among Europe’s best-preserved monuments of its kind, the castle is for the most part open to the public, including for tours, concerts, theatre plays and other events.

But although best-known as a tourist attraction it is also technically a military site, housing part of the French armed forces’ historical archives, to which access is restricted.

The mounted Garde republicaine – a division of the French military – are also partially based at the chateaux.

It is therefore covered by a French ban on Russian nationals entering army territory that was issued after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Each year some 150,000 people visit the chateau, paying €9.50 per adult admission.

But on July 28th, two Russian women were refused access.

“A guard at the metal detector asked to see my passport,” said one of the women, 31, who works as a journalist and has been in France for five months, having left Russia “because of the war”.

On inspecting the document, the guard informed her she couldn’t pass, the woman, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Another guard also denied her entry and gave as the reason “because you are Russian”, she said, adding she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

Contacted by AFP, the defence ministry confirmed late Monday that it had, indeed, “restricted access to military installations to Russian nationals” because of the invasion.

But after media coverage and social media comment, the ministry contacted AFP on Tuesday to say that the guards had in fact “indiscriminately applied a rule established in February concerning all military installations”.

“This rule cannot be applied in the same way for strategic sites and for sites accessible to the public, such as museums,” a spokesman said.

The ministry said security staff would now be informed of the distinction “to avoid any further incidents of this kind”.

Russian journalists could, however, apply for an exemption, a ministry official added.

The majority of France’s most popular tourist sites have no military function and would not be affected by the ban. 

Since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February, France has taken in some 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, government figures show.

About 73,500 Russian immigrants lived in France in 2021, according to the national statistics office Insee.

There has been debate within the European Union about whether further limits should be placed on Russians visiting the bloc for tourism or personal reasons.

Russia’s neighbour Finland last week issued a plan to limit tourist visas  for Russians but also emphasised the need for an EU-level decision on the matter.