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Paris bars to close as French capital placed on maximum COVID alert

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris is to be placed on maximum COVID-19 alert, meaning bars will be forced to close for two weeks from Tuesday and restaurants will have to put in place new sanitary protocols to stay open, the prime minister’s office said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex’s office said there had been no improvement in the Paris region since the capital passed all three of the government’s criteria for being put on the highest level of alert mid last week.

Working from home should be prioritised “now more than ever” in the Paris area and university lecture halls should be no more than half full, Castex’s office said in a statement.

The reinforced restrictions will take effect from Tuesday.

“These measures, indispensable in the fight to curb the virus’ spread, will apply to Paris and the three departments immediately surrounding it, for a duration of two weeks,” it said.

For a city to be placed on maximum alert, the incidence rate must exceed 100 infections per 100,000 among elderly inhabitants and 250 per 100,000 among the general public, while at least 30% of intensive care beds are reserved for coronavirus patients.

A week ago, restaurants and bars were shut down for a fortnight in Marseille, the southern city at the epicentre of the second wave, prompting protests and an unsuccessful legal challenge.

Restaurants in Marseille will be allowed to reopen early under the same new protocols.

France on Sunday reported 12,565 new cases of coronavirus, while 893 COVID-19 patients had been admitted into intensive care over the past week.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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