rfi.fr– The French government has extended a weekend lockdown in the northern city of Dunkirk until the end March in bid to curb a spike in new Covid-19 cases. Similar measures in Nice and the Alpes-Maritimes department in the southeast have also been extended by two weeks.
In a statement released by the northern region’s prefecture, the weekend lockdown first implemented on 13 February will be extended for the next three weekends as “the health situation remains particularly volatile and warrants the continued enforcement of strong measures”.
The restrictions will remain in force in urban areas of Dunkirk and the surrounding communes of Hauts de Flandre at weekends until midnight on Sunday 28 March.
According to the regional authorities, the impact of weekend restrictions implemented last month have affected the incidence rate of infections, however levels still remain significantly higher than the national average.
Côte d’Azur confinement extended
Nice and the Alpes-Martimes region also had weekend restrictions extended by a fortnight.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Wednesday that the lockdown measures, enforced from the last weekend of February, had been more effective in containing the Covid spread on the Côte d’Azur.
But while the rate of infection has fallen by around 22 percent over the past week, the figure of 473 cases per 100,000 inhabitants remains too high to ease the confinement measure, Attal added.
The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, called on residents to take note of the government’s decision “even if it was not his recommendation”.
Capital spared further restrictions
Weekend lockdowns have for now been ruled out for Paris and the surrounding Ile-de-France region.
The authorities are treading carefully in their approach to the French capital after seven weeks of 6pm curfew and a four-month closure of restaurants, bars, and cultural venues.
According to the Regional Health Agency for Ile-de-France, the number of patients admitted to intensive care units has soared in recent days, exceeding 1,000 patients with “fewer than 1,050” beds available.
The latest figures show that some 4,000 Covid patients are being treated in ICUs nationwide, with many hospitals in affected regions reported to be reaching saturation point.
Following a meeting of France’s Covid task-force on Wednesday, the government said the pandemic is “far from over, despite the eventual protection afforded by vaccinations as they are rolled-out across the country”.
The vaccination campaign, which has been hindered by limited supplies, does not appear to have had a significant impact on new cases, especially in areas where the UK variant of the coronavirus has spread, such as Dunkirk and Paris.
Drop in deaths in nursing homes
While the overall death toll has risen to 89,327 since the start of the epidemic one year ago, the number of deaths in nursing homes fell to 70 – the lowest since mid-October.
Official figures indicate that 85 percent of nursing home residents have now received their first dose of vaccine, with 63 percent having received both.
In total, over four million people across the France have received at least one dose of vaccine, half of whom have received two doses.
The French government has promised that at least 10 million first injections will have been administered by mid-April.