Marseille has been left ‘astonished’ after it was plunged into a second lockdown amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases across France.
The strict new rules have angered local officials who said they had not been consulted as authorities put the country’s second city on maximum alert.
The move, which was announced by health minister Olivier Véran on Wednesday, will see all restaurants, bars and gyms in Marseille close from Saturday for at least two weeks.
Crowds of local business owners took to the streets on Friday to stage a protest against the new measures.
It comes after France set a daily record with more than 16,000 new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours amid warnings that Britain could follow in its footsteps.
Marseille has been left ‘astonished’ after it was plunged into a second lockdown amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases across France (crowds pictured protesting against new measures)
Marseille Mayor Michèle Rubirola said that she had not been consulted about the decision to enforce a second lockdown in the area – which left her ‘astonished and angry’.
‘The Marseille town hall was not consulted. Nothing in the health situation justifies these announcements,’ she wrote on Twitter.
She added: ‘I won’t allow the people of Marseille to become the victims of political decisions that no-one understands.’
Benoît Payan, Marseille’s first deputy mayor, also criticised the restrictions and asked the French government for a 10-day reprieve to show that the city’s own measures were working.
He said: ‘Once again our territory is being sanctioned, punished, singled out. Our city has been put in virtual confinement without anyone having been consulted.
‘The statements [from the government] are irrational. Marseille deserves better than being beaten down, or of serving as an example.’
Renaud Muselier, president of the regional council that includes Marseille, added that the closures amounted to a ‘collective punishment’.
He took to Twitter and said: ‘This decision is unilateral, ill-conceived and unfair.’
But Mr Véran responded to the criticism by stating that the measures had been put in place to protect public health.
He also claimed that city officials were given notice of the announcement in advance.
Owners of restaurants, cafes and other businesses in Marseille took to the streets on Friday to stage a protest against the new measures.
The strict new rules have angered local officials who said they had not been consulted as authorities put its second city on maximum alert (mobile coronavirus testing facility in Marseille)
Owners of restaurants, cafes and other businesses in Marseille took to the streets on Friday to stage a protest against the new measures (pictured)
‘There is no question that you will suffer the consequences of these health measures,’ prime minister Jean Castex told a Marseille restaurant owner who called into France 2 television.
He said that affected businesses would be exempt from some charges, and a partial unemployment scheme would be extended until the measures are lifted.
He also called on all French citizens to show ‘responsibility’ in the face of the rising case numbers.
‘What I don’t want is that we go back to March,’ he said, referring to one of the strictest national lockdowns in Europe in which French people were required to fill out forms to leave their homes.
Castex also admitted that he has not downloaded his own government’s StopCovid contact tracing app.
‘Yes I am pushing the French to use it, but I do not,’ he said on France 2, explaining that he no longer takes the metro since becoming PM in July.
Bernard Marty of the UMIH union, which represents the hospitality sector, warned of ‘insurrection,’ with several restaurant owners vowing to ignore the closure orders.
France has been hit by a second wave of coronavirus sweeping across the country.
It recorded 16,096 new cases on Thursday which blew away the previous record of 13,498 set on Sunday which now brings France’s total to nearly half a million infections.
While the true number of infections was likely higher in the first wave – limited testing meant the high-water mark in the spring was only 7,578 cases – the latest rise has brought an uptick in deaths while more than 1,000 people are in intensive care for the first time since June.
France’s total number of infections is now 497,237 in the second-largest outbreak in Western Europe, behind Spain.
That total has doubled in the last month as a summer lull gave way to a resurgent spread of the virus in August and September.
Britain’s top scientific advisers have pointed to the rebound in France and Spain as a sign of things to come if the UK does not bring its own resurgence under control.
INTENSIVE CARE CASES: French ICU wards are treating more than 1,000 people for the first time since mid-June
France has been hard-hit by the second wave of coronavirus in Europe, along with Spain (this map shows the recent number of cases per 100,000 people, with higher figures in darker colours)
While deaths are well below the peak of March and April, France is now seeing dozens of hospital deaths per day compared to only a handful in late July and early August.
Hundreds of people are being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 every day, with more than 6,000 patients currently on coronavirus wards.
Of the current hospital patients, more than half are aged 70 or over, with more than 2,000 of them in their 80s or 90s.
More than 1,000 people are in intensive care for the first time since early June, although capacity has doubled to around 10,000 since before the pandemic.
Emmanuel Macron’s government has also limited public gatherings to 10 people in cities including Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris, which will see its gyms and other indoor sporting facilities closed as well, said she had lodged a formal protest.
‘How will the fact that we can no longer exercise help us, while sport is an important part of keeping us healthy with strong immune systems?’ Hidalgo asked on France 3 television.
Paris hospital authority AP-HP said Thursday that an influx of coronavirus patients was forcing it to start cancelling non-emergency surgery starting this weekend.
The number of coronavirus patients in Paris hospitals had more than doubled in three weeks, from 150 to 330, and would probably reach 600 by month’s end, said deputy director Francois Cremieux.
The number in intensive care have followed a similar upward curve, from 50 three weeks ago to 132 on Wednesday and likely more than 200 by next week, he said.