France’s Health Minister unveiled new restrictive measures on Wednesday to curb the spread of COVID-19 with the virus actively now circulating in over two-thirds of the country.

The toughest measures will for now only concern the coastal city of Marseille and the island of Guadeloupe with bars and restaurants ordered to shut from Saturday, Oliver Véran announced during a press conference.

The minister warned that the epidemiological situation across the country has sharply “deteriorated” with the incidence rate now standing at over 94 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and the R rate stuck above 1.

He also flagged that the positivity rate had jumped to over 6 per cent this week compared to 5 per cent during the previous seven days.

“The situation is also worrying in hospital wards where there are nearly 6,000 hospitalised patients,” he said.

To adjust to the spread of the virus, authorities have developed a new colour-coded map — including three shades of red — with restrictive measures tailored to each colour.

Overall, the virus is deemed to be actively circulating —defined by an incidence rate of at least 50 cases per 100,000 population — in 69 or seven out of ten départements.

In those in which the epidemiological situation is less stressed, local authorities can “take any action they deem relevant”, Veran said.

The only new restrictive measure announced is a cap of 30 persons for events such as weddings.

This new category affects areas where the incidence rate is higher than 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and includes major cities including Paris, Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Nice.

Large planned events of more than 1,000 people are banned as are public and private gatherings of more than 10 people.

Bars and restaurants will have to close no later than 10 pm while gyms and sports halls will have to shut their doors.

Are concerned by this category places where the indicence rate is over 250 cases per 100,000 populations. So far, only Marseille and the island of Guadeloupe are impacted.

Bars, restaurants and any shop where strict sanitary protocols cannot be respected will have to shut.

Cultural places including museums, theatres and cinemas can remain open if they continue to adhere to strict sanitary requirements as will places of worship.

Véran highlighted that in the capital and in the eastern Auverge-Rhones-Alpes region — both currently at the enhanced alert level — the situation is “critical” with ICU services expected to be at capacity come mid-October if the current trajectory holds true.

In the Ile-de-France region, 1,000 people were hospitalised over the previous seven days, more than double the amount admitted in the week prior, the minister said.

COVID-19 patients now occupy 27 per cent of ICU beds vs 18 per cent last week. The rate is expected to increase to 60 per cent in mid-October and to 85 per cent in mid-November.

“This is not to scare you but to tell you that there is still time to act,” Veran said, adding that the measures unveiled aim to derail the current trajectory and “protect our hospitals and intensive care units.”

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