France's 'out of control' Nice braces for stricter Covid curbs

Infection rates in French Riviera city are up to three times national average

A doctor administers the Covid-19 vaccine to a man on February 20, 2021 at the NHC hospital (Nouvel Hopital Civil) in Strasbourg, eastern France, as part of a vaccination session (2nd injection) of a group of heart transplant carriers. / AFP / Frederick FLORIN
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The French Riviera city of Nice was on Sunday preparing for stricter restrictions to battle an "out of control" Covid-19 outbreak spreading much faster than elsewhere in France.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said after visiting a Nice hospital this weekend that the measures could include a tighter curfew than that imposed nationwide in France and a weekend lockdown.

A decision was expected later on Sunday or Monday, after Nice recorded 700 positive cases for every 100,000 inhabitants, three times the national average.

"Consultations will be conducted over the weekend to take additional measures to stem the epidemic, ranging from a reinforced curfew to local lockdown at weekends," Mr Veran said.

France has avoided imposing a third nationwide lockdown to fight the virus, in contrast to some of its neighbours, in what analysts see as a gamble by President Emmanuel Macron to allow the economy to gain steam.

If agreed to, the new restrictions would probably extend over all the southern Alpes-Maritimes region, which includes Nice, but not beyond.

Measures taken in recent weeks have not been sufficient in the region, senior French hospitals official Remi Salomon told BFMTV.

Local right-wing MP Eric Ciotti told the Nice Matin  newspaper that the decision appeared to have aready been made and a weekend lockdown would be enforced.

This measure has long been urged by Nice's high-profile Mayor Christian Estrosi, also a member of right-wing party the Republicans, even if his opinion is not shared by all fellow mayors along the coast.

Mainland France has a nightly curfew beginning at 6pm.

The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte is the only part of the country under lockdown, which has been in effect since February 5.

The curfew has been credited with keeping a lid on infection rates but government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on French TV late on Saturday that the latest trends were "not good".

After a slow start, France's vaccination campaign has gained momentum with more than 2.5 million people receiving the first dose and, of those, more than 1.1 million having both.