France to tighten virus measures, unveil new colour-coded map
PARIS (Reuters) - The French government is expected to unveil a new colour-coded map on Wednesday of regions where the coronavirus situation is deteriorating, a government source said, paving the way for local authorities to tighten restrictions, in Paris in particular.
Like other European countries where the infection rate has soared in the past month, France is tightening limits on public and private gatherings in the hardest hit areas. Health Minister Olivier Veran is due to hold a news conference at 1700 GMT.
After a summer lull, President Emmanuel Macron's government has been keen to let local authorities adopt measures locally depending on the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks, rather than taking broad measures from the central government in Paris.
The government source said the health minister would unveil a new "national framework" later on Wednesday, with government recommendations to local authorities depending on where they stand on a new colour-coded map of the country with "red", "super-red" and even "scarlet" areas.
"There are several cities that are going to switch to a higher category, not only Paris," the government source said. The new "scarlet" category would be for areas where very restrictive measures just short of a new lockdown are advised.
Local prefects -- officials representing the central government in regions -- will then unveil the concrete measures.
Two government sources said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was strongly resisting restrictions to opening hours of bars and cafes in the capital, arguing that would be devastating economically for the sector.
Hidalgo's councillor in charge of health issues confirmed the mayor's resistance against the measures, because they would not be sustainable over the long term.
"Saying we'll restrict yet again the possibility of having even the smallest social life, that's becoming problematic," Anne Souyris told Reuters. "What we can do is being stricter, more rigorous in how we apply existing restrictions."
Among measures planned are a ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people, while attendance at major events could be limited to 1,000 people from the 5,000 allowed now, reports in Le Parisien newspaper and other media said. The sale of alcohol outdoors will be prohibited after 8 p.m. they added.
The new rules for Paris, if confirmed, would follow similar measures in Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Nice as the coronavirus resurges across the country.
(Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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