Restaurants and bars in Marseille are set to close for a week as French ministers launch scattered new coronavirus restrictions in a bid to stem a rising tide of infections.
Hospitality businesses in the Mediterranean-coastal city will close for seven days from tonight.
It comes after health authorities reported 14,000 new infections across France on Saturday – amid a mass testing effort.
Meanwhile hospitals in the Paris and Marseille regions will put scheduled operations on hold to free up space for a growing number of Covid-19 patients.
At least 10 per cent of French intensive care beds are now occupied with COVID patients.
Restaurants and bars in Marseille are set to close for a week as French ministers launch scattered new coronavirus restrictions in a bid to stem a rising tide of infections. Pictured: A man enjoys a final beer before bars and restaurants close
Hospitality businesses in the Mediterranean-coastal city will close for seven days from tonight. Pictured: A restaurant owner packs away chairs in Marseille
Marseille restaurant and bar owners and local officials have protested against the closure order, which was announced on Wednesday. Pictured: Stacked-up chairs and bars and restaurants close in Marseille
Hospitals temporarily suspended such operations when the virus swept over France in March and April, creating backlogs that still persist six months later.
However, the country’s Health Minister Olivier Veran urged that French hospitals are far from saturation.
Today, Mr Veran also insisted that the country was planning no new lockdowns.
Two Nobel Prize-winning economists proposed in Le Monde newspaper this weekend that France should lockdown its population for the first three weeks of December, to allow families to get together safely for end-of-year holidays and to ‘save Christmas’.
The country’s Health Minister Olivier Veran (pictured) urged that French hospitals are far from saturation
But speaking on French free-to-air channel LCI television, Mr Veran said ‘we do not want to confine the country again. Several countries around us made other choices. We don’t want this’.
He urged the French to make an effort to slow the spread of the virus across the country, which has 31,700 virus-related deaths – the third-highest toll in Europe after Britain and Italy.
Meanwhile, in Marseille restaurant and bar owners and local officials have protested against the closure order coming in tonight, after the announcement was made on Wednesday.
They have accused the central government in Paris of singling out their rival Mediterranean city for punishment.
Marseille Mayor Michèle Rubirola said that she had not been consulted about the decision to enforce a second lockdown in the area – which left her ‘astonished and angry’.
‘The Marseille town hall was not consulted. Nothing in the health situation justifies these announcements,’ she wrote on Twitter.
She added: ‘I won’t allow the people of Marseille to become the victims of political decisions that no-one understands.’
Benoît Payan, Marseille’s first deputy mayor, also criticised the restrictions and asked the French government for a 10-day reprieve to show that the city’s own measures were working.
He said: ‘Once again our territory is being sanctioned, punished, singled out. Our city has been put in virtual confinement without anyone having been consulted.
Restaurant owners have accused the central government in Paris of singling out their rival Mediterranean city for punishment. Pictured: One restaurant owner packs up her restaurant ahead of the closure
Marseille Mayor Michèle Rubirola said that she had not been consulted about the decision to enforce a second lockdown in the area – which left her ‘astonished and angry’. Pictured: Diners eat out for a final time for a week ahead of the new rules
‘The statements [from the government] are irrational. Marseille deserves better than being beaten down, or of serving as an example.’
Renaud Muselier, president of the regional council that includes Marseille, added that the closures amounted to a ‘collective punishment’.
He took to Twitter and said: ‘This decision is unilateral, ill-conceived and unfair.’
But Mr Veran responded to the criticism by stating that the measures had been put in place to protect public health.
He also claimed that city officials were given notice of the announcement in advance.
The government is imposing milder restrictions on Paris and several other cities, with gyms shut down, public gatherings of more than 10 people banned and bars ordered to close at 10pm starting on Monday night.
It comes as France has been hit by a second wave of coronavirus sweeping across the country.
It recorded 16,096 new cases on Thursday which blew away the previous record of 13,498 set on Sunday which now brings France’s total to nearly half a million infections.
While the true number of infections was likely higher in the first wave – limited testing meant the high-water mark in the spring was only 7,578 cases – the latest rise has brought an uptick in deaths while more than 1,000 people are in intensive care for the first time since June.
France’s total number of infections is now 497,237 in the second-largest outbreak in Western Europe, behind Spain.
That total has doubled in the last month as a summer lull gave way to a resurgent spread of the virus in August and September.
Britain’s top scientific advisers have pointed to the rebound in France and Spain as a sign of things to come if the UK does not bring its own resurgence under control.
While deaths are well below the peak of March and April, France is now seeing dozens of hospital deaths per day compared to only a handful in late July and early August.
Hundreds of people are being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 every day, with more than 6,000 patients currently on coronavirus wards.
Of the current hospital patients, more than half are aged 70 or over, with more than 2,000 of them in their 80s or 90s.
More than 1,000 people are in intensive care for the first time since early June, although capacity has doubled to around 10,000 since before the pandemic.