French Riviera, Nice, braces for tougher Covid-19 restrictions

The French Riviera Nice prepared on Sunday to face a new set of local restrictions against Covid-19 to combat an outbreak described as out of control and spreading much faster than anywhere else in France.

Health Minister Olivier Véran said after visiting a hospital in Nice this weekend that the measures could include a stricter form of curfew imposed nationwide in France or a weekend stop in the city.

A decision was expected later on Sunday or Monday, with Nice registering 700 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants, three times the national average.

“Consultations will be held over the weekend to take further action to stop the epidemic, ranging from an intensified curfew to local closures on weekends,” Véran said.

France has so far avoided introducing a third nationwide lockdown to fight the virus, unlike some of its neighbors, in what analysts see as a risky venture by President Emmanuel Macron to give the economy some steam.

If agreed, the new restrictions would probably extend to the whole of the southern Alpes-Maritimes region, which includes Nice, but not beyond.

A senior French hospital official, Remi Salomon, described the epidemic on BFMTV as “out of control” in the region and said that measures taken in recent weeks had not been sufficient.

Local right-wing MP Eric Ciotti told the newspaper Nice Matin that the decision seemed to have been made correctly and that a suspension this weekend was on the cards.

This measure has long been called for by Nice’s high-profile mayor Christian Estrosi, also a member of the right-wing Republican Party, although his views are not shared by all other mayors along the coast.

Currently, mainland France has a curfew starting at The only part of the country with a lock in place is the island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean where the measure has entered into force since 5 February.

The curfew has been credited for keeping a lid on the degree of infection, but government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on French television late on Saturday that the latest trends were “not good”.

After a slow start, France’s vaccination campaign has gained momentum with more than 2.5 million people receiving one dose, of which over 1.1 million have had both doses.