Europe

France bans alcohol, large public gatherings to fight COVID

Authorities to prosecute gatherings of more than 6 people, public alcohol consumption as country records 50,659 new cases

Shweta Desai   | 01.04.2021
France bans alcohol, large public gatherings to fight COVID

PARIS

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said Thursday that consumption of alcohol in outdoor public spaces and gatherings of more than six people on riverbanks or in squares will be banned as part of the limited nationwide lockdown to be imposed to prevent a surge in COVID-19 infections.

Castex announced the restrictions in parliament as the country reported 50,659 new cases, the highest amid France’s third wave of COVID-19. The number of fatalities registered in the last 24 hours was 314, with the cumulative death toll at 95,976.

“With this behavior of not respecting the curfew or the refusal to wear a mask, we must prevent them and sanction them,” he declared during a debate and vote in parliament on the new health measures announced by President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday.

France will impose a limited lockdown for four weeks from this Saturday in which nurseries, schools and non-essential shops will remain shut.

Amid applause from the senators Thursday morning, Castex said: “We will see in particular whether the ban on gatherings of more than six people on public roads is respected, alcohol consumption in public spaces will be prohibited.”

The head of state’s remarks were made in light of a large “party” on the evening of March 30, post-curfew time, on the Saone quays, the docks adjoining the river in Lyon city. Several “clandestine parties” in Paris, Marseille and other parts have continued in violation of the national lockdown and curfew measures through last October.

Images and videos on social media showed several hundred revelers in Lyon, most of whom wore no masks, dancing to loud music and drinking alcohol as daylight temperatures warmed up to 23 degrees Celsius across France.

Authorities in Lyon condemned the rally as “irresponsible and unacceptable” but refused to send the police to break up the gathering given its proximity to the river and the danger it would have created, their official account said on Twitter.

Speaking in parliament, Castex warned that the third wave was hitting harder. Noting the virus strikes younger people and in greater proportions, he detailed that in the last two weeks, the number of cases has increased by 55% or 38,000 per day.

“The British variant continues to accelerate. We too must accelerate and take reinforced measures if we want to break the epidemic spiral,” he said.

Of the 96 metropolitan departments, 92 are currently experiencing an acceleration in viral circulation and about 20 have seen an increase of more than 40% in infections.

“It is necessary to act strongly, quickly and everywhere and according to the same rules,” he urged.

The opposition members threatened to boycott the voting procedure to approve the restrictions, as they contended that Macron’s announcements were unilateral.

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