France extends at 18.00 curfew to Marseille as 21 tests positive for British variant

France will extend its Covid-19 curfew to eight more departments, including the Bouches-du-Rhône area around Marseille, where police announced on Saturday that 21 people had tested positive for the new Covid-19 strain first discovered in England.

France has increased its antivirus restrictions in the face of increasing cases and imposed a curfew from 6 pm on 15 of its 101 departments, while the rest is kept on 20 square meters.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Jean Castex said eight more departments would be added to the list, describing the new curfew as a “tough and necessary” response amid protests from local officials.

Departments affected by the 18.00 curfew are considered to be where the virus spreads most in a country that has so far seen about 67,000 deaths from about 2.7 million cases and with an escalating reproduction rate.

The new departments that are likely to be subject to a previous curfew are mainly in the eastern part of the country, including Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin and Côte-d’Or, as well as the central ones in Cher.

Castex highlighted the southern port of Marseille, France’s second largest city, where local politicians of all stripes have expressed opposition to extending the partial locks and questioning its effectiveness.

“In fact, we apply the same criteria to Marseille as we apply elsewhere,” the prime minister said, confirming that the previous lock would be extended to eight departments including Bouches-du-Rhône, which includes Marseille.

“Everyone is aware that the epidemic is not weakening or that it is growing stronger in some areas,” says Castex.

The move comes when the police in Marseille announced that 21 people had tested positive for the highly contagious strain of the new coronavirus that was first discovered in England.

Police said the new cases had been discovered within a family cluster.

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Castex also defended the government’s strategy for vaccine development, which has been paralyzed by politicians across the board for its slow start.

“The goal is to go fast, [but] do it under absolutely irreversible safety conditions, says Castex.

Opinion polls show that about half of the French population is skeptical of having a jab – their opposition is particularly high than in neighboring countries.

Castex stressed what he called the “credibility” of the vaccine strategy, adding: “It must succeed, because that is what will enable us to find our way out of this serious and deteriorating health crisis.”

Health Minister Olivier Véran stressed that France would increase the number of vaccinations from next week.

( Jowharwith REUTERS)