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The city of Nice on the French Riviera prepared on Sunday for a series of new local restrictions against COVID-19 to combat an outbreak that is considered to be out of control and is spreading much faster than anywhere else in France.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said after visiting a hospital in Nice this weekend, measures could include a stricter form of the nationwide curfew in France or a weekend lockdown in the city.
A decision was expected later on Sunday or Monday. Nice had 700 positive cases per 100,000 population, three times the national average.
"Consultations will be held at the weekend to take additional measures to contain the epidemic, ranging from an increased curfew to a local lockdown on weekends," Veran said.
France has so far avoided imposing a third nationwide lockdown to fight the virus, unlike some of its neighbors, in what analysts see as President Emmanuel Macron's risky game for the economy to gain some momentum.
If agreed, the new restrictions would likely extend to the entire southern Alpes-Maritimes region, including Nice, but not beyond.
Senior French hospital official Remi Salomon described the epidemic at BFMTV as "out of control" in the region and said the measures taken in recent weeks had not been sufficient.
Local right-wing MP Eric Ciotti told Nice Matin newspaper that the decision had apparently already been made and that a lockdown was planned for the weekend.
This measure has long been called for by Nice's high-profile mayor Christian Estrosi, also a member of the right-wing party The Republicans, even if his opinion is not shared by all fellow mayors along the coast.
There is currently a night curfew from 6 p.m. on mainland France. The only part of the country that has a lockdown is Mayotte Island in the Indian Ocean, where the measure has been in effect since February 5th.
The curfew has been attributed to keeping infection rates under control, but government spokesman Gabriel Attal said late Saturday on French television that the latest trends were "not good".
After a slow start, the vaccination campaign in France has gained momentum with more than 2.5 million people receiving a dose, of which over 1.1 million had both doses.
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