SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

Three more areas of France placed on ‘lockdown light’ as Covid cases soar

Three additional areas of France have been placed on 'lockdown light' bringing the total number to 19 départements subject to extra restrictions amid a worrying rise in case numbers.

Three more areas of France placed on 'lockdown light' as Covid cases soar
French health minister Olivier Véran. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

On March 19th, the départements of Aisne, Nord, Oise, Pas-de-Calais, Somme, Paris, Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne, Val-d’Oise, Alpes-Maritimes, Eure, Seine-Maritime were placed on lockdown light.

Now from midnight on Friday, March 26th the départements of Rhône (including the city of Lyon), Nièvre and Aube will join them in the extra measures, which will run for an initial period of four weeks.

The extra measures come as France recorded 45,000 new cases of Covid on Wednesday – approaching the 50,000 daily cases seen before France’s second strict, nationwide lockdown was imposed in the autumn.

Announcing the measures, Health Minister Olivier Véran said the situation was now very serious, but that it was ‘too early’ to look at another nationwide lockdown, pointing to wide regional variations in case numbers and hospital pressure. “Finistère is not the same as Seine-Saint-Denis,” he added.

But he warned: “In the coming days, the pressure on the health system will continue to increase.”

The rules in the ‘lockdown light’ areas are not as strict as the lockdowns in spring or autumn, but non-essential shops are closed, travel between regions banned and the attestation permission form needed for some trips out of the home.

Schools remain open, although in high schools (lycées) teaching moves to half online and half in-person classes.

After rising case numbers in schools, especially in the Paris region, there had been calls for them to be closed, but Véran reiterated that this would be a last resort for the government.

READ ALSO These are the rules in the areas of France on ‘lockdown light’

The government has also launched a new communications campaign urging people to take any socialising outdoors and avoid meeting people inside.

Véran said: “This is no lockdown. There are fifty shades of measures that all take into account the epidemic situation and what we know about the virus.”

The situation in the greater Paris Île-de-France region, which has now been on ‘lockdown light’ for a week, is particularly worrying.

“The pressure on hospitals has reached a critical level” in the Paris region, Véran said. 

“There are 1,400 Covid patients in intensive care, the patients are younger, sometimes without underlying illnesses.

“The profile of people who arrive in ICUs has changed. We’re seeing an increased risk of being admitted into ICU for people between 15 and 67 years old.”

Véran said 2,200 new hospital beds will be added to the 1,500 already existing in the greater Paris region, of which Covid patients now occupy 1,400.

The health minister said hospitals had deprogrammed between 35 and 40 percent of their scheduled medical procedures, aiming to reach 80 percent.

 
 

Member comments

  1. Among our French neighbours and acquantances there seems little resistance to getting the jab. We have spoken to various workmen and women, some in their thirties or older and all say that they will take the vaccine, We’ve had our first Pfizer jab with no side effects but perhaps the Astra is not so popular and people are a bit wary of it.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

DISCOVER FRANCE

Inside Brégançon: The French presidential Riviera holiday home

If you're expecting to see French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris over the summer you're likely to be disappointed - he and his wife Brigitte are at Brégançon, the official Riviera 'holiday home' of the presidents of France.

Inside Brégançon: The French presidential Riviera holiday home

The Fort of Brégançon, which stands on a rock 30 metres above the sea, has been offering privacy and sunshine to French presidents for decades, although its history goes back much further than that.

The fort is perched on a tiny island – just 4.5km long – connected to the French mainland by a causeway and has been a strategic site since the 6th century, acting as a seigneurial residence, a Crown estate property and a military site equipped with artillery including 23 cannons under Napoleon Bonaparte.

It was Charles de Gaulle who gave it the status of official presidential residence in 1968 and it’s usually used for presidential holidays – similar to Camp David in the USA and Chequers in the UK.

It has since been transformed into a pleasant residence while maintaining what remained of the ancient fortress, giving presidents the opportunity to take advantage of the sunshine of the Riviera.

French presidents have their main residence and offices in the Elysée Palace, the beautiful 18th century residence in the heart of Paris. In addition to Brégançon, presidents also have the use of La Lanterne, a former hunting lodge in the grounds of Versailles, and although they can’t stay in the sumptuous Palace of Versailles they do sometimes hold events and meeting with foreign dignitaries there.

It’s Brégançon’s offshore location that was the key for De Gaulle, who considered it the only place in the south of France secure enough to receive foreign heads of state, particularly from Mediterranean countries in the geopolitical context of decolonisation. 

While it remains secure, it is these days within long-lens range for photographers, as several presidents have discovered. 

But through the years of the Fifth Republic, French presidents have had quite varying attitudes to this undoubted perk of the job.

De Gaulle’s successor Georges Pompidou seemed to love it and spent his weekends in the Fort both in summers and winters. He opened its doors to the media, letting himself be photographed with his spouse in more relaxed clothing and playing pétanque with his bodyguards.

Georges Pompidou and his wife Claude in August 1969 pose in the gardens during their summer holiday. Photo by AFP

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who regularly stayed there with his family, brought the national spotlight on the Fort by letting paparazzi venture around the residence, snapping pictures of him in swimsuit and tennis shoes, but also installing CCTV inside the residence.

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing poses for photos with his wife Anne-Aymone in 1979. Photo by AFP

When socialist François Mitterrand won the election, he declared: “the Republic doesn’t need a secondary residence.”

He limited his visits to work meeting – the SNCF strikers in 1987 and two heads of state the Irish Prime Minister Garret Fitzgerald and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl – although he took no steps to sell off Brégancon. 

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was hosted by François Mitterand in August 1985. Photo by PIERRE CIOT / AFP

His successor Jacques Chirac particularly appreciated the fort because of its location in the Var département where he lived as a child.

With his spouse Bernadette, they regularly attend mass at the local church and greeted residents and tourists. In 2004, the President received Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to appease tensions. The Brégançon presidential desk was photographed for the first time.

Jacques Chirac and Brigitte leaving the local church in May 1999 Photo by VANINA LUCCHESI / AFP

During his presidency Nicolas Sarkozy received foreign politicians including Condoleezza Rice, but also took some time to exercise. The pictures of him jogging around the Fort were described as creating a new style of presidential communication. Later, he was photographed on the beach with first lady Carla Bruni during her pregnancy.

Nicolas Sarkozy jogging, followed by his bodyguards on bikes. Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP

François Hollande, who branded himself as a “normal president” felt no particular attachment to the Fort and opened the site to the public for visits, although he did host some work meetings there.

A rather formal looking Francois Hollande meets with his Prime Minister Manuel Valls at Brégançon. Photo by BERTRAND LANGLOIS / POOL / AFP

Since being elected in 2017 Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron seem to have enjoyed the Fort, retreating there during the summers and being photographed on the beach or having fun on jet-skis – they also installed a swimming pool which cost €34,000.

Brigitte Macron owns a property in the northern French seaside resort of Le Touquet, which the couple use for family time. But Emmanuel Macron has also used the Fort for work, hosting British Prime Minister Theresa May in August 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin in August 2019, on the eve of the G7 in Biarritz, and Chancellor Angela Merkel in summer 2020. 

Emmanuel Macron welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Bregancon in August 2020. Photo by Christophe SIMON / POOL / AFP

This year he declared that he would be having a “pause studieuse” at Brégançon and use the summer to think about how to tackle some of France’s most pressings issues.

With a cost of living crisis, war in Europe and political turmoil at home, let’s hope that his beach reading bears fruit.

By Julie Edde

SHOW COMMENTS