NICE: People sit in front of the sea in French Riviera on a sunny Sunday.—AFP
NICE: People sit in front of the sea in French Riviera on a sunny Sunday.—AFP

PARIS: The mayor of the French city of Nice called on Sunday 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, triple the national average.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Saturday the government will decide this weekend on tightening virus control measures in the Mediterranean city.

“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 ...that would stop the inflow of visitors,” Mayor Christian Estrosi said on franceinfo radio.

“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,” he said.

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.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2021

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