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Covid-19: Paris on ‘maximum alert’, bars and cafés to close

Paris and the petite couronne are now a Covid-19 maximum alert zone. The government has announced restrictions on restaurants, bars, cafes and universities today (October 5).

A press conference at 11:30 today has confirmed “constraint measures” to try to contain the health situation in the capital and the surrounding departments of Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne.

Measures include closing bars and cafes for two weeks, but restaurants can stay open "under certain conditions".

Yesterday (October 4) Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo spent the day in talks with Prime Minister Jean Castex, and described the situation in the capital as “very serious”.

“Maximum” is the highest alert level before the situation reaches a state of health emergency. 

The criteria for reaching this state of maximum alert are based on three factors: the incidence rate among the general population, the incidence rate among elderly people, and the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care. 

In mainland France, Marseille and Aix-en-Provence are also at maximum alert level.  

Bars, restaurants and universities in Paris: What will change? 

Restaurants to stay open

Restaurants in maximum alert zones are now allowed to stay open with strict health protocols in place, the prime minister’s office confirmed yesterday evening.

New health measures for restaurants will include keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between tables, obligatory payment at the table rather than at the till, closing at 22:00 and keeping an inventory of all customers to facilitate contact tracing.

Restaurants in Marseille and Aix-en-Provence will also be allowed to reopen under the same conditions. Local authorities in the region are seeing this as a victory, after much anger following the order to close restaurants.

Martine Vassal, president of the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolis said: “This is a beautiful victory for the whole restauration profession”. 

However, restaurateurs in Paris are unhappy with the new restrictions.

Thierry Fontaine, president of hospitality union l’Union des Métiers et des Industries de l’Hôtellerie told news source FranceInfo: “With more protocols, we will end up putting people off coming to restaurants. 

“Restaurants won’t close but we will drive the clientele away, which is the same thing. We will have restaurants that are open, but empty.”

Cafés and bars must close 

Cafes and bars will have to close in the capital from Tuesday (October 6) for two weeks.

A government source told news agency Reuters: “Closing bars is one of the measures that will be imposed when the maximum alert level is reached. There will be no difference between Paris and Marseille.”

Local officials in Paris have already indicated they will accept the decision to close bars and cafes in the capital.

Universities to operate at 50% capacity

Classrooms and lecture halls in universities will only be able to operate at 50% capacity from Tuesday.

Student parties have also been banned.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Sunday, the situation in universities in the capital is “catastrophic”. 

Other closures and restrictions

Sports halls and swimming pools to close

Didier Lallement, police prefect for Paris said this morning: "Gyms, sports halls and swimming pools will from now on be closed for all activities." However, in some circumstances they may be able to open for children's activities.

Customer limits for shopping centres

Shopping centres will also have a limited capacity to accept customers, set at a maximum of "one client per four square metres".

Working from home encouraged

Working from home is strongly advised in maximum alert zones. This morning, Work Minister Elisabeth Borne will meet with union representatives to remind them of the “necessity to favour working from home, more than ever” in maximum alert zones.  

Holidays could be cancelled for medical workers in Paris 

New restrictions come as HR directors at Paris hospital collective l’Assistance publique-Hopîtaux de Paris (APHP) consider cancelling upcoming holidays for medical staff because of the Covid-19 crisis.

As cases rise in the capital and throughout France, government advisory body le Conseil Scientifique has warned hospitals could be overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients within weeks

News source France Inter has reported an internal message sent on October 2, which said: “Constraints on the continuity of services in light of the health epidemic are susceptible to lead to the cancellation of planned holiday days, notably over Toussaint.”

Toussaint is a national holiday in France that falls on November 1.  

APHP plans to compensate staff for cancelled holidays financially. In addition, it is planning to cover up to 50 hours of childcare costs per child for staff members with children over the holiday period. 

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