Bars, restaurants to close in Marseille over Covid fears

Commuters wearing face masks get off a train at the Saint-Charles station in Marseille, southeastern France, on September 21, 2020. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP)


PARIS, FRANCE (AFP) — Bars and restaurants in France’s Mediterranean city of Marseille will have to close as part of new restrictions designed to stop the spread of Covid-19, the health minister said on Wednesday.

Olivier Veran’s comments to reporters came as French public health authorities reported 13,072 new cases in 24 hours — a new record since lockdown ended — and 783 hospital admissions with coronavirus.

Port city Marseille was the only part of mainland France at a state of “maximum alert” requiring the closures, Olivier Veran told reporters, along with Caribbean territory Guadeloupe.

The top alert level is the last stage before a public health emergency is declared.

Meanwhile eight major cities including Paris are now in a state of “elevated alert”, the second-highest in a new system with a sliding scale of infection control measures.

The capital’s bars will have to close earlier, at 10:00 pm, Veran said, while gatherings of more than 10 people in public places will be banned and large events limited to 1,000 people.

The data is “continuing to worsen” but there is “still time to act”, he added. “Strain on the hospital system requires that we take additional measures.”

The hospitality sector in France’s second-largest city fears a new blow after it suffered through a spring lockdown.

Marseille mayor Michele Rubirola tweeted that the decision had left her “astonished and angry”.

“The Marseille town hall was not consulted. Nothing in the health situation justifies these announcements,” Rubirola added.

Other politicians pointed to rates of infection and positive Covid-19 tests that were slightly down in the past week.

“This collective punishment is extremely hard on the economy of our region,” the head of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, Renaud Muselier, said in a statement.

Closing down nightlife amounted to “essentially a return to lockdown,” he added.