Covid-19

Northern French city Dunkirk faces Covid restrictions as cases spike

People stand in a queue at a Covid testing centre in Dunkirk, which has called for more restrictions to address a spike in cases. The city put in place massive testing last week.
People stand in a queue at a Covid testing centre in Dunkirk, which has called for more restrictions to address a spike in cases. The city put in place massive testing last week. © Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Officials in the northern French port city of Dunkirk are urging the government to impose a ban on all public gatherings until 15 March to stop a spike in Covid-19 infections.

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The Dunkirk metropolitan region, with 200,000 residents, across the Channel from the UK, and across the border from Belgium, has one of the highest Covid infection rates in France, with more than 900 weekly cases per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 202 cases. The spike is attributed to the presence of the more contagious UK variant of the virus.

"We want absolutely no meetings, no public gatherings... this is our last chance," Patrice Vergriete, president of the urban community representing 22 mayors in and around Dunkirk, told a news conference on Tuesday.

He did not call for a weekend lockdown for the metropolitan area’s 200,000 residents, as was put in place in the southern city of Nice last week, but said he would not oppose it if the government imposed it.

Health Minister Olivier Veran will visit Dunkirk on Wednesday to announce measures.

After discussing the situation with the mayor, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in a statement that they agreed that “additional measures to limit the epidemic must be taken.”

No national lockdown... yet

France has decided to impose regional restrictions, resisting a national lockdown to control more contagious variants and hoping a curfew in place since 15 December can contain the pandemic.

The number of Covid patients in intensive care units has gone up again, reaching a 12-week peak on Tuesday of 3,435. Authorities reported 20,064 new cases, up from 19,590 the week before.

The seven-day moving average of cases remained above 20,000 for the third day in a row, at 20,109, the highest since 20,466 on 5 February.

The vaccination campaign, meanwhile, continues, with limited supplies. More than 2.6 million people have received at least one dose, and 1.2 million have received both, as family doctors are preparing to start administering the vaccines in their offices.

(with wires)

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