Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, had asked the government to let her open parks and gardens closed since mid-March, “taking into account the needs of Parisians, because Paris is a very dense city”. Access would be conditional on wearing a face mask, which the mayor said should also become compulsory on the capital’s streets.
But Véran denied the request. “We will not open parks and gardens in Paris and in Ile-de-France, nor in the other regions classified as red zones,” he said, referring to regions of France where contagion risks remain high.
France’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by 348 to 26,991 on Tuesday, overtaking Spain to become the country with the world’s fourth-highest number of fatalities after the United States, Britain and Italy.
On the second day after the loosening of a strict nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus contagion, President Emmanuel Macron’s government reiterated that it was ready to tighten restrictions again if necessary.
Government “deconfinement” co-ordinator Jean Castex told lawmakers that the first 36 hours of the easing had gone as planned and that the biggest challenge in maintaining social distancing as a bulwark against transmission of the virus was public transport in densely populated areas.
“We must consider the possibility of reversing the end of lockdown. If certain indicators deteriorate, we will tighten measures again, possibly on a regional basis,” Castex said.
Many shops, businesses and schools started reopening on Monday, but the country remains on high alert, with extra precautions in place in red zones, and gatherings of more than 10 people are banned.
By the end of Monday, the government had already banned the consumption of alcohol along the popular Canal Saint-Martin area in eastern Paris, where groups of young people eagerly socialised in close contact with each other, against the rules.
Jean Castex, the civil servant in charge of the easing measures, has warned that “the French population remains vulnerable to a resumption of the epidemic”.
The health ministry said in a statement the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 infections fell again to 21,595 from 22,284 on Monday, continuing an uninterrupted downward trend that has lasted four weeks.
The number of people in intensive care – a key measure of a health system’s ability to cope with the pandemic – also continued its downtrend, falling by 170 or 6.3 per cent to 2542, from more than 7000 in early April at the height of the crisis.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 708 to 140,227 on Tuesday, up from 456 on Monday. Including 37,988 probable cases, up 94, the total number of confirmed and probable cases rose by 802 to 178,225, putting France in sixth place worldwide by that measure.
The government has said it will consider locking down the country again if daily new infections rise above 3000 again. In the past six days, the case count has increased by about 670 per day on average.
The Telegraph, London; Reuters