France announces weekend lockdown in Dunkirk, warns of wider local restrictions
French officials on Wednesday announced a weekend lockdown in the northern city of Dunkirk and warned local restrictions might be on the way elsewhere to contain worsening Covid epidemic situations around the country.
Speaking during a visit to the northern port city, Health Minister Olivier Véran said the weekend lockdown would be effective until further notice after the infection rate passed over 900 for 100,000 people, close to nine times the national average.
As with a lockdown recently imposed in Nice on the French Riviera, some 250,000 people in and around Dunkirk would only be allowed to leave their homes for specific reasons. The area’s 10 largest shopping centres would only open for click-and-collect services.
Véran said the sanitary situation was “alarming” becaues of an infection rate “twice what it was during the first and second waves” of France’s Covid epidemic.
Dunkirk mayor Patrice Vergriet welcomed the decision for the city, where hospitals are saturated and patients are being transferred for care in other regions.
“We wanted to give prevention a chance, but the population has to understand that the overall situation has become much more difficult,” he said. “The hospital is saturated, the staff are exhausted. I expect the people of Dunkirk to respect the decisions.”
Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said earlier in the day similar moves could become elsewhere, with about 10 of France’s 102 administrative departments were facing a worrying situation.
Aujourd’hui, @GabrielAttal a indiqué que la situation devenait inquiétante dans une dizaine de départements. Quels sont-ils ?— GRZ - CovidTracker (@GuillaumeRozier) February 24, 2021
13 départements dépassent le seuil d’alerte maximale en taux d’incidence (nombre de cas par semaine pour 100k habitants. (1/n) https://t.co/Jmul6ItjVR pic.twitter.com/sN2MvITPPp
Health Ministry data showed 13 departments have surpassed the maximum alert level for infection rates, the threshold of which is 250 infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
“We must continue all our efforts to avoid having to impose another national lockdown,” Attal told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Jean Castex would update the country about the Covid situation in a news conference on Thursday, Attal said.
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