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French city of Nice asks tourists to stay away amid COVID-19 surge

French city of Nice asks tourists to stay away amid COVID-19 surge

FILE PHOTO: A man, wearing a protective face mask, rides his scooter in a local market in Nice amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, on Feb 18, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

PARIS: The mayor of the French city of Nice called on Sunday (Feb 21) for a weekend lockdown in the area to stop the flow of visitors, saying tourists are welcome in normal times, but the city needs to focus on battling a sharp spike in coronavirus infections.

The Nice area has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in France, with 740 new cases per week per 100,000 residents, according to Covidtracker.fr. This number is triple the national average.

"We need strong measures that go beyond the nationwide 6pm curfew, either tighter curfew, or a partial and time-specific lockdown. A weekend lockdown would make sense," Mayor Christian Estrosi said on franceinfo radio.

Before ordering a second national lockdown in November, the government imposed curfews some cities and closed restaurants in Marseille, but it has generally refrained from regional measures due to protest from local politicians and businesses.

"We do not rule out local lockdowns," government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on LCI television.

He added that the trend in new cases was not good in recent days and that there was no case for loosening curfew.

"The weather is nice, everybody rushes to come here. A weekend lockdown would put a stop to that, without halting economic activity in the city," Estrosi said.

READ: French daily new COVID-19 cases up week-on-week for third day in a row

READ: French hospitals to move into crisis mode over possible surge of COVID-19 cases: Report

Estrosi said infection rates had leapt due to the massive inflow of tourists over the Christmas holiday. International flights to the city had jumped from 20 a day before Christmas to 120 over the holiday - all this without people having virus tests in their country of origin or on arrival.

"We will be happy to receive lots of tourists this summer, once we win this battle, but it is better to have a period while we say 'do not come here, this is not the moment'. Protecting the people of Nice is my priority," he said. 

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Source: Reuters/ga

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