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Weekend lockdown for Pas-de-Calais, more areas on alert

Three more departments have been added to the list of 20 being monitored for possible extra Covid-related restrictions as the UK variant of Covid-19 accelerates across France

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, the prime minister has confirmed.

The coastal area of the Alpes-Maritimes and Dunkirk and its surrounding area is already subject to a similar lockdown.

Ile-de-France, part of which was facing a similar measure, has been spared.

In addition, three other departments have been added to a list of 20 departments placed on "heightened alert" with a view to introducing stricter measures if necessary.

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 Pas-de-Calais the incidence rate - the number of positive Covid-19 test results per 100,000 inhabitants - has increased by 23% in the last seven days and now exceeds 400, almost twice the national average.

The three new departments on alert are Hautes-Alpes, Aisne et Aube.

See our map of the original 20 departments here. 

The new measures were announced by the prime minister during a press conference this evening (March 4).

“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. 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”. 

Announcements by the prime minister

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Pas-de-Calais, large non-food retail outlets of more than 5,000 square metres will be closed.
  • Prefects in the 23 departments being monitored will be able to take extra measures to prevent large gatherings at weekends. This comes after groups of people gathered along the Seine river in Paris. "The images we saw again this past weekend in some major cities, including Paris, are simply not reasonable,” said Mr Castex.
  • Inhabitants of the 23 departments have been asked not to leave their department or region, as far as possible. This is a recommendation and not a rule and Mr Castex called for people to apply “common sense”. 
  • The “rule of six” should not be forgotten, he said, meaning people should try to not gather in groups of more than six people.

There has been a decrease of 17% in Covid-19 infections in people aged over 80 which Mr Castex linked to the impact of vaccinations.
The prime minister did not say if the weekend lockdowns in the Alpes-Maritimes and in Dunkirk and its surrounding area will end as planned on March 8. 

Read more:

France debates Covid health pass: How would it work?

Are rises in positive cases in France due to more tests?

France aims to vaccinate 30 million by summer, says PM

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