Paris officials announced yesterday that they would ban daytime jogging to keep people from bending anti-coronavirus lockdown rules, after France recorded its biggest daily jump in the death toll from the outbreak.
Under nationwide stay-at-home orders that came into force on March 17, people can leave their homes only for essential purposes, which until now included a solo walk or run within a 1km (0.6-mile) radius of home.
However, amid a spell of sunny spring weather, large groups of Parisians were seen running, walking and congregating over the weekend, even as police stepped up patrols and issued fines for lockdown violations.
Starting today, Paris will enforce a ban on individual outdoor sports between the hours of 10am and 7pm.
Officials worry that confinement violations could further burden hospitals already overflowing with Covid-19 patients, and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Monday urged municipal officials to toughen restrictions if necessary.
The coronavirus causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
“Every excursion avoided aids the fight against the epidemic,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and police chief Didier Lallement said in a statement.
Also yesterday, the Atlantic coastal resort city of Biarritz limited the period people can sit on benches or in other public areas to two minutes maximum, saying confinement meant that “dawdling is prohibited”.
Paris, Biarritz and other cities have already closed public parks and gardens as part of the nationwide lockdown that requires people to carry a document justifying any excursion from the home.
Those caught without the document risk a fine starting at €135 ($147).
In the north of France, the mayor of Marcq-en-Baroeul has made spitting in public, coughing or sneezing without covering one’s face, and throwing used masks and gloves in the street punishable by a fine of €68.
The tougher rules came after Health Minister Olivier Veran announced on Monday a record daily coronavirus death toll of 833 people in 24 hours.
“It is not over,” the minister said, urging people to “stay at home and continue this confinement effort”.
And yesterday France officially registered more than 10,000 deaths from coronavirus infections, becoming the fourth country to go beyond that threshold after Italy, Spain and the United States, while the rate of increase of fatalities is up for the second day running.
During a news conference Jerome Salomon, head of the public health authority, said that the number of people who died from the disease in French hospitals had risen by 9% in a day to a cumulative total of 7,091, versus 10% on Monday.
However, he added that including partial data about the number of people who have died in nursing homes, the total death toll from the disease rose to 10,328 from 8,911 on Monday, a rise of 16%, versus 10% on Monday and 7% on Sunday.
Meanwhile, like many other nations, France debated the merits of encouraging, or compelling, people to wear face masks to prevent asymptomatic virus-carriers from passing it on to others.
Health Minister Veran said yesterday that it remained an “open question” that required further scientific investigation.
France’s Academy of Medicine, which advises the government on epidemics, has advocated mask-wearing as an aid in curbing the outbreak, but international bodies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) disagree.
But Hidalgo said in a radio interview yesterday that she would not oblige face mask use for now, though she did encourage people to cover their faces in public.
France’s finance ministry, meanwhile, said dozens of companies have produced 3.9mn fabric masks for non-medical professional use in the past week, and will produce 6.6mn more in the days to come.
The country’s Order of Pharmacists and two labour unions urged the government, meanwhile, to allow pharmacies to sell “alternative” non-medical grade masks to members of the public as an added protection.
The WHO said on Monday that asking the general public to wear face masks could be justified in areas where hand-washing and physical distancing were difficult, but warned that masks alone could not stop the pandemic.
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