On Wednesday, September 23, the Minister of Health, Olivier Veran, announced stricter measures to be introduced in multiple cities across the country in the coming days, as the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections continues to rise. The country has been divided into four "danger zones" by alert level; 69 departments out of 101 are in the "alert" zone level, Paris and multiple other cities have been placed under the "enhanced alert level", and Marseille and Guadeloupe have been put on "maximum" alert level. Local authorities may enforce tougher measures to curb the spread of the virus. In the announcement, Veran warned that the authorities were ready to once again declare a state of emergency in certain areas if the situation did not improve.
The metropolitan areas of Bordeaux, Lyon, Nice, Lille, Toulouse, Rennes, Saint-Etienne, Grenoble, Montpellier, Rouen, and the capital Paris and the surrounding suburbs, were declared "reinforced danger zones" and placed on an enhanced alert level. From Monday, September 28, bars and restaurants will close early in these locations. The prefects will set the closing times for establishments; however, they will be required to close at 22:00 (local time) at the latest. The number of people allowed to gather in public spaces will be limited to ten people maximum, and attendance at major events, including the upcoming Roland-Garros tennis tournament, will be limited to 1000 people. Pre-planned events, such as student parties, will be banned. Renting party venues, including for weddings, will also reportedly be banned.
Under the maximum alert level, bars and restaurants in Aix-Marseille metropolis and Guadeloupe will be closed in both locations from Saturday, September 26. In addition, all establishments open to the public will be closed, unless strict health protocols are in place. Cultural places such as theatres, museums, and cinemas, which are already following these protocols will largely not be affected. The provisions announced are temporary for a 15-day period, whereafter authorities will review the situation. Reports indicate that companies impacted by the latest measures will be financially supported by the state.
Other COVID-19 restrictions remain in place at the national level, including the compulsory use of face masks in all enclosed public spaces and public transport. Many cities and regions have extended this to include outdoor public spaces. Individuals should continue to observe social distancing measures.
More than 13,072 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the last 24 hours. As of September 23, there have been 481,141 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in France and 31,459 associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or a rash on the skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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