A fourth wave of Covid cases, driven by the delta variant, is underway in France with coastal areas showing particularly sharp rises in cases.
Speaking after a meeting of the Defence Council on Wednesday morning, prime minister Jean Castex said it may be necessary to introduce more “braking measures” in areas that have high case numbers, including 11pm closures for bars and restaurants and the reinstatement of rules making masks mandatory in outdoor public spaces such as the streets.
However he added that the final decision would lie with local authorities, who have the power to take extra measures if they see a worrying rise in case numbers or more pressure on local hospital services.
The south west département of Pyrénées-Orientale, which has seen a big spike in cases, has already announced an order for bars and restaurants to close at 11pm, which came into force on Sunday.
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Les départements du littoral touristique sont ceux où le taux d'incidence est le plus élevé. Les données des tests étant par lieu de résidence, ce n'est pas directement dû aux vacanciers testés positifs sur place. Mais il y a d'autres raisons possibles.
— Nicolas Berrod (@nicolasberrod) July 20, 2021
Case numbers have been rising across France, but the rise is particularly marked along the south and west coastlines – popular destinations for both French and international holidaymakers.
On a national level, case numbers have risen 129 percent in just a week and four fifths of cases are now of the more contagious delta variant. The national incidence rate is now 84 cases per 100,000 people.
However hospitalisation rates remain, for the moment, low. Castex said that of the people developing the most severe forms of the virus, 96 percent are not fully vaccinated.
Since France began loosening restrictions, local authorities have had powers to impose new rules if the situation requires it. Several areas have made masks compulsory on the streets after the national rule on mask wearing was relaxed.
From Wednesday the health passport scheme has been extended in France so that it now includes cultural and leisure spaces such as swimming pools, cinemas and tourist sites. For the full rules, click HERE.
Castex added that schools and college will begin vaccination drives when pupils return in September, but stressed that the health passport would not be necessary to go to school. A total of 11 vaccinations are already compulsory before children are enrolled in French schools, but for the moment the Covid vaccine will not be one of them.