Covid-19 France

No ‘cruel’ weekend lockdown in Paris, argues mayor Hidalgo

People gather along the River Seine as they enjoy a sunny afternoon in Paris on 28 February 2021.
People gather along the River Seine as they enjoy a sunny afternoon in Paris on 28 February 2021. © AFP - Thomas Coex

A weekend lockdown in Paris and the suburbs would be “inhumane”, according to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who hit back at President Emmanuel Macron’s government over the country’s vaccination campaign. 

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"No to lockdown on weekends," Hidalgo told a press conference on Monday.

Her stance puts her at odds with Prime Minister Jean Castex, who had previously warned of new strengthened restrictions in areas hit by the virus.

The socialist mayor called on President Macron to come to the city’s aid and quadruple the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

She said the strategy must focus on members of the public most at risk and vulnerable, pointing to mapping carried out by French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM).

Hidalgo said that local authorities had decided against the idea of a three-week lockdown, floated last week by her deputy mayor Emmanuel Grégoire as a possible means of accelerating the reopening schedule.  

Glimmer of hope

At the weekend, Castex called on police chiefs in 20 departments to crack down on citizens flouting the rules aimed at stemming the spread of the illness.

Macron hinted at a glimmer of hope on Monday, suggesting that restrictive measures, in particular the 6pm national curfew, could begin to lift in four to six weeks. It's the first time the president has mentioned any time frame for easing restrictions.

Hidalgo claimed more lockdown would not help Parisians, many who live in small apartments, adding it was the same for people living in the greater Ile-de-France region, pointing to Seine-Saint-Denis. “It doesn’t solve much,” she added.

The Paris mayor made several proposals to the government, including encouraging teachers to hold class with the window open and try to deliver lessons outside if possible, French media reported.

She said teaching pupils outside would be “taking advantage of the return of sunny days”, suggesting that public plazas and gardens could be adopted and redeveloped into open learning spaces.

‘Clear’ strategy

In Paris, the infection rate now stands at 326 new cases, per 100,000 people, per week, Hidalgo stated, France’s national average is down at 222 cases per 100,000.

“We are at a pivotal moment and the health situation is not improving, it continues to deteriorate in Paris and its region,” said the mayor. “We need a clear health strategy.”

French health chiefs had in mid-February ruled out a tougher package of restrictions to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic until at least after the school holidays.

In mid-December, the government missed its target of 5,000 infections per day. The target had been a key part of lifting restrictions on 15 December ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Nearly 20,000 new cases were reported on 28 February, as the pandemic continues to rage in France, with the daily new cases number hovering around 20,000 since the start of the year.

France has registered 3.7 million coronavirus infections and more than 86,000 deaths. The health authorities have delivered 2.9 million first vaccine doses, according to coronavirus data from the government.

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