A bistrot in Paris on September 25, 2020 | Ian Langsdon/EFE via EPA
The French capital will limit public gatherings as infection rates keep increasing.
PARIS — Officials in Paris announced on Monday new restrictions for the city and its suburbs as the area reached the highest coronavirus alert level.
All bars must close, as well as indoor sports areas such as swimming pools and gyms (with limited exceptions, including for children).
Restaurants may stay open if they put in place strict protection measures that will be detailed later in the day, Paris police prefect Didier Lallement said during a press conference with Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Aurélien Rousseau, head of the regional health authority.
Universities are limited to 50 percent of their capacity and shops and malls must ensure density is limited to 4 square meters per customer. Working from home must be prioritized.
The country's "maximum alert" is reached when the weekly incidence rate exceeds 250 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants and COVID-19 patients represent at least 30 percent of those in intensive care unit beds.
The restrictions will come into force on Tuesday in Paris and three adjacent districts.
The incidence rate in Paris is now at 500 per 100,000 inhabitants in the 20 to 30 age group and COVID-19 patients represent 36 percent of ICU beds, said Rousseau.
There are now "3,500 new confirmed cases every day [which] is three and a half times more than a month ago," Rousseau added.
"The epidemic is moving too fast, we need to put the brakes on now before the health care system is overwhelmed," added Lallement.
The restrictions will come into force on Tuesday in Paris and three adjacent districts and will be in force initially for two weeks and could be extended if the health situation doesn't improve.
All outdoor facilities will remain open with a limit of 1,000 people per event or 50 percent of their maximum capacity if it is less than 1,000 people.
The move comes as the French government is trying to avoid another nationwide lockdown, using instead various levels of restriction in different areas of the country.
The Paris area and the region of Marseille are currently at the highest alert level, but six other cities — Lyon, Lille, Toulouse, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne — could join them if they stay on their current trajectory.
France reported nearly 17,000 infections on Saturday, its highest rate since the country started widespread testing.
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