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New Covid-19 spike: French department bans large gatherings

Gatherings of more than 10 people have been banned in Mayenne (Pays de la Loire) as almost 1,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported, two weeks after the department was put on “high vulnerability” alert.

Regional healthcare body l'Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS) des Pays-de-Loire issued a warning after 15 new clusters of the virus were identified, of which nine are still “under investigation”.

Gatherings of more than 10 people have already been banned and masks are obligatory not only in enclosed public spaces - as they are everywhere in France - but also outside on the street in four communes: Laval, Mayenne, Château-Gontier-sur-Mayenne and Évron.

Read more: French department on ‘high alert’ after spike in Covid cases

Read more: French doctor: People should wear mask ‘all the time’

Read more: When and where you must wear a mask in France: Checklist

Prefect Jean-Francis Treffel said that the clusters in the area “essentially concerned the business world” and “social structures”, especially “social sites that house vulnerable and precarious people”.

The clusters were found in sites in Laval including a home for asylum-seekers, as well as a social housing unit, a religious community; homes for disabled people in Pontmain and Evron, and a business in Azé.

The prefect said: “We know that gatherings can spread [the virus].” He added that masks had been made mandatory outside in certain communes because “in the town centre, it can be more difficult to respect physical distancing measures at this time of year”.

Read more: Coronavirus: Family reunions spark new clusters in France

While the number of positive results per 100 tests in the area has actually dropped since the last measure - 3.8% on July 24 - it is still at 3%, authorities said.

A total of 14 people are hospitalised in Mayenne currently, but there are no patients in intensive care.

Overall, 962 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the department since May 13, bringing the incidence of the virus to 126.1 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Mr Treffel reminded the public: “Everyone who is planning to go away on holiday must be tested - to be sure that you are negative - at freely-available free [testing] centres.”

Read more: Covid-19 France: free tests for all as clusters investigated

Read more: Tourist areas in France open Covid test sites as cases rise

All Covid-19 PCR tests in France are now free of charge in a bid to encourage testing - especially in holiday areas.

The warnings come after Mayenne was declared to be on "high vulnerability alert" earlier this month, and health authorities warned of a rise in cases nationwide, and of the possible need to reconfine certain areas locally if the situation worsens.

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