Once again, a strict confinement has inexplicably been narrowly avoided. Bernard Gonzalez, the prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes has announced today at noon that the pandemic has “considerably worsened” in the department with an incidence rate three times higher than the rest of the country, 600 cases per 100,000 people. (Nice today counts 735 cases per 100,000 people.) The British variant makes up 50% of the cases.
As I reported yesterday, a weekend confinement, from 6 pm to 6 am Monday will go into effect for the next two weekends, starting Friday, February 26. This impacts all coastal towns from Menton to Theoule-sur-Mer, with the return of the famous attestation which allows people to grocery shop, go to the doctor and walk the dog. The one-hour sports rule is also back but with a distance of up to 5 km from home.
All non-essential shops and services (yes, hair salons) will be closed over the weekend.
All stores over 5,000 sqm (except pharmacies and grocery stores) will close from tomorrow. In some cases, click and collect and delivery options will be available.
Shops over 400 sqm must ensure a distance of one shopper per 15 sqm (up from 10 sqm) and dedicate a “Covid mediator” to ensure all measures—social distancing and mask wearing, for example—are being respected by consumers within the store.
Wearing a mask must be respected throughout the department, and this will be controlled much more over the coming weeks. As Pr Patrick Berche, a microbiologist and member of France’s Medical Academy, explained yesterday, if two people stop to talk on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice without wearing masks and with less than one meter apart, they could get Covid in less than one minute. The spread of the virus is even higher when groups stop to have a smoke break.
Drinking alcohol in public will also be banned (although it was unclear whether this applies to hours of weekend confinement or in general).
There will be tighter police controls at borders with Italy (the 30 km rule will be examined and who needs a PCR test) and at the airport where 20 flights a day pre-Christmas have jumped to 120 a day currently. For flights, passengers from high risk areas will be targeted and overall more PCR tests will be done for arrivals.
“With Monaco, discussions are ongoing but we don’t know yet,” Gonzalez communicated.
The vaccination campaign must be accelerated, Gonzalez said, adding that from today, an additional 4,500 doses of Pfizer are to be delivered in the department with a “massive delivery” of thousands of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for any 50- to 64-year-old who wants it and who are suffering from various health conditions. From Wednesday, GPs will be able to vaccinate patients from their office. As of Friday, 195,473 people in the Alpes-Maritimes, which has a population of 1.08 million, had received their first dose.
This “soft” weekend option seems to have be chosen to discourage tourists from coming to the region over the two-week school break but the government has continually said we must learn to live with the virus instead of entering another confinement. President Marcron has stated, however, further national restrictions could be announced over the eight to ten days, which would take effect after school holidays end March 8.