North France calls for local lockdown as Covid cases rise

Covid-19 cases in Dunkirk have hit 901 per 100,000 residents, with authorities asking for similar lockdown rules to those imposed in Nice

23 February 2021
A view of Dunkirk. North France calls for local lockdown as Covid cases riseCovid-19 cases in Dunkirk have hit 901 per 100,000 residents, prompting local leaders to call for severe measures
By Hannah Thompson

Authorities in the north of France are calling for a local lockdown, as the Covid-19 situation in Dunkirk is “worse than in Nice” - days after Nice imposed local weekend lockdowns amid rising case numbers.

Yesterday in Dunkirk, Nord, the number of cases per 100,000 people hit 901, up from 653 last week.

Professor Philippe Froguel, from the CHU Lille hospital, said: “The situation [in Dunkirk] is worse than in Nice.”

A weekend lockdown for at least the next two weeks has been announced by the prefect in Nice and the Alpes-Maritimes due to a marked rise in UK variant cases in the area.

Read more: Covid: Lockdown next two weekends for French Riviera

Speaking to news service BFMTV, he said that the case numbers were close “to the record of 1,000 seen in Roubaix in October”.

The professor said that the area had seen “a 40% rise in Covid-19 cases in one week”, in contrast to the stable numbers seen over the same period in the Alpes-Maritimes.

Patrick Goldstein, head of emergency services le Samu in the Nord, said: “The Dunkirk hospital has been under pressure for several days.

“To give you an idea of the size of this health crisis, since February 1, we have transferred more than 53 patients in intensive care from the Dunkirk hospital to other units. We will soon reach our limits.”

Mayor of Dunkirk, Patrice Vergriete, has called for a meeting with Prime Minister Jean Castex “to examine the health situation”.

In a statement, he said: “Dunkirk today deserves all of the state’s attention, in the same way as the Nice and Alpes-Maritimes area. Ten days ago, before the epidemic worsened, we suggested a series of preventative measures to the state, which seemed appropriate for the situation.

“Our calls were not heard.”

Read more: Alert as Covid UK variant hits 70% in Dunkirk

But this week Health Minister Olivier Véran said that other areas of the country did justify “our full involvement”, and said: “I am especially thinking of the north of France and the community of Dunkirk. I have met with the mayor, and I will speak with him again today.

“There was also the specific situation in Moselle, not because of such a high level of incidence as this, but because there they had the South African variant. We are doing everything we can to contain it."

François Grosdidier, the mayor of Moselle’s administrative centre Metz, had called for a new lockdown due to the spread of new variants in the region, but no such rule was introduced.

Read more: No local lockdown in Moselle despite Covid variants spread

 

'Sounding the same alarm'

This week, Professor Olivier Guérin, a member of the government advisory body le Conseil Scientifique, told news service FranceInfo: “It is possible that the Alpes-Maritimes model could be reproduced elsewhere.”

The professor, from the CHU hospital in Nice, said: “I am thinking in particular about our colleagues in Dunkirk, who are sounding the same alarm as we did.”

He explained that local lockdowns rather than nationwide measures were an effective way of “sparing the areas where, right now, the virus is not circulating, and not saturating the healthcare system”.

The professor also said that he believed more vaccinations should be done in areas with higher levels of the virus.

In the meantime, Dunkirk is stepping up checks on compliance with existing rules, including the 18:00 curfew.

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