A weekend lockdown from Saturday at 06:00 until Sunday at 18:00 is to be brought in this week (March 6-7) in the whole department of Pas-de-Calais.
Prime Minister Jean Castex made the announcement on March 4 and did not specify how long the weekend lockdown rule will remain in place. It applies in addition to the current national curfew in place between 18:00 to 06:00.
The prime minister also announced that three further departments, Hautes-Alpes, Aisne et Aube, have been added to a list of 20 that are under close watch to see if stricter Covid-related measures, such as a weekend lockdown, should be introduced.
See our map below of the 23 departments being monitored and the three departments where weekend lockdown rules apply.
Why is this being done?
The criteria for departments classed as on "heightened alert" is defined as:
The incidence rate (the number of positive cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days) is over 250
The incidence rate is rising
Instances of Covid variants account for over 50% of cases
Hospitals are under critical pressure
In the Pas-de-Calais, the incidence rate is 411. This is just under double the national rate, which is 220.4
The number of positive recorded cases of Covid-19 in the department has been rising since the beginning of the year.
Overall, 146% of intensive care units beds present before the pandemic are now occupied, a number that has been increasing in recent weeks.
The rate of positive Covid-19 tests - the percentage of positive tests compared to all tests taken - is 9.6%. The national average is 7.3%.
In the Alpes-Maritimes, the situation is worse. The incidence rate is 542 and the rate of positive tests is 10.1%. 137% of intensive care units beds present before the pandemic are now occupied.
In Dunkirk in the Nord, the situation is particularly worrying.
The incidence rate is 1,039 and the rate of positive tests is 13%. This is close to reaching the peak national rate, which climbed to 16.4% on October 27, 2020.
Of the 20 departments that have been under review since last week, the virus is continuing to spread in all except for Bouches-du-Rhône and Moselle, Mr Castex stated.
In Bouches-du-Rhône, the incidence rate is 316 but the number of daily recorded cases, hospitalisations and deaths have been decreasing in recent weeks.
In Moselle, the incidence rate is 280 and the rate of positive tests is 5.3%, a bit below the national average.
Mr Castex said these departments will be reviewed to see if this trend continues.
What are the rules?
In the areas with the new lockdown rules, it will only be possible to leave the house for specific reasons on the weekends. These are in addition to the reasons already set out for the curfew, such as for going to work or going out for medical reasons. The additional reasons that apply to the weekend lockdowns are:
Shopping for basic necessities including professional supplies, to pick up ordered goods, for home deliveries, and for relocations
Exercise or walking pets, for a maximum duration of one hour within a five kilometre radius of your home
Participating in authorised gatherings, including going to and from places of worship
Travel to a public service or legal professional, for an act or procedure that cannot be performed remotely.
Everyone going out in an area under lockdown will need to fill out an exemption certificate (attestation de déplacement) and tick the appropriate box.
These forms can be found on the Interior Ministry’s website here (in French or English). These forms are combined with the ones used to go out during the curfew. Scroll down to find the additional reasons for going out during the weekend lockdown.
You can also use the Covid-19 track and trace phone application TousAntiCovid to download an attestation to your phone.
In all three areas with a weekend lockdown, all non-essential businesses (clothes shops, hairdressers, beauty shops) will be closed during the weekend. Food shops, pharmacies, medical laboratories, tabacs, petrol stations and garages will be open.
In Pas-de-Calais, like in the Alpes-Maritimes and Dunkirk and its surrounding area, large non-food retail outlets of more than 5,000 square metres will be closed.
It is now mandatory to wear a mask in the whole of the Pas-de-Calais department, including in rural areas.
Equally, the public consumption of alcohol and playing loud music in public spaces is now banned in the whole of Pas-de-Calais, the Nord and the Alpes-Maritimes.
In the 23 departments now being monitored, large shopping centres or large commercial surfaces of more than 10,000 square metres will be closed. This is a reduction from the previous rule that applied to centres larger than 20,000 square metres.
The prime minister has also asked inhabitants of these 23 departments not to leave the department or the region if they can avoid it. Common sense is to be applied, he said.
The weekend lockdowns were originally projected to end in the Alpes-Maritimes and Dunkirk after this coming weekend (March 6 and 7).
No indication has yet been given as to if this will happen. Equally, there is no indication of how long the weekend lockdowns will remain in place in Pas-de-Calais.
Mr Castex the government was doing everything to avoid introducing another national lockdown.
“The circulation of the virus has accelerated in the last two weeks, an evolution clearly linked to the progression of the UK variant, which represents 60% of infections in our country,” he said yesterday (March 4).
However he said the rise is not as high as could have been feared (1.4% every day in the last week as opposed to 14% the week before).
He said that this acceleration has not yet reached an exponential level where a national lockdown is necessary but he did not rule this out as a future possibility. He said a relaxation of restrictions is “impossible to imagine for the moment”.