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Paris, back on maximum coronavirus alert, closes bars but not restaurants

People enjoy a drink in a Paris cafe Sept. 26, 2020.
(Lewis Joly / Associated Press)

French authorities placed the Paris region on maximum coronavirus alert Monday, banning festive gatherings and ordering bars to close but allowing restaurants to remain open.

With coronavirus infections rising rapidly, Paris police prefect Didier Lallement said that the new restrictions would apply for at least the next two weeks.

“We are continuously adapting to the reality of the virus. We are taking measures to slow down [its spread],” he said.

French authorities consider bars to be major infection hot spots because patrons don’t respect social distancing rules as much as they do at restaurants.

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Starting Tuesday, bars will be closed in Paris and its suburbs. Student parties and all other festive and family events in establishments open to the public will be banned.

Restaurants will remain open but under strict conditions. They include a minimum distance of slightly more than three feet between each table, groups limited to six people instead of the previously allowed 10 and a request to register customers’ names and phone numbers to help with any necessary contact tracing.

A coronavirus outbreak among vacationing youths in western France is crystallizing fears that the epidemic is flaring again in the country.

Indoor sport facilities, including swimming pools, will only be open to children under 18. Gyms are already closed.

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Cinemas, theaters and museums will remain open with strict hygiene rules, but fairs and professional shows won’t be allowed.

Authorities have maintained the limit of 1,000 spectators per day at big sports events, allowing the French Open tennis tournament to continue as planned this week.

The director of the Paris regional health authority, Aurelien Rousseau, said that about 3,500 new coronavirus cases are confirmed on average each day in the region, and 36% of ICU beds in the area are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Workers are preparing the Eiffel Tower for reopening next week after the coronavirus crisis led to the landmark’s longest closure since World War II.

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The alert has already been raised to the maximum level for 12 days in the southern city of Marseille and nearby Aix-en-Provence, as well as the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean. Authorities ordered the shutdown of all public venues, including bars and restaurants, in these areas, which prompted several demonstrations from angry business owners in Marseille.

On Monday, local authorities announced that restaurants in Marseille and Aix-en-Provence could reopen on condition that they respect the same restrictions as in Paris.

France, one of the hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus in Europe, has reported 32,230 virus-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.


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