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France's city dwellers flock to the Atlantic coast to ride out confinement

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France's city dwellers flock to the Atlantic coast to ride out confinement
Copyright  Xavier Leoty/AFP
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City dwellers fled to France's countryside as the country went into the first week of a full lockdown, with many trying to live out confinement at second residences.

Now, in some towns on the Atlantic coast of France, authorities say it is so crowded that it looks as if it were the middle of summer.

Emmanuel Macron announced a lockdown on 16 March (which came into play the following day) to keep people from interacting with others and therefore spreading the coronavirus, which has already killed hundreds in France.

Many are now wondering why some people were allowed to escape to the beach, potentially filling up hospitals that aren't able to handle large numbers of people.

Inhabitants and local politicians in the southwest region of Nouvelle Aquitaine are particularly worried that people fleeing cities would bring the virus with them.

In the southwest, there are fewer cases of coronavirus, whereas the north and east of the country have been much more heavily affected.

Photos showed a crowded bridge as people tried to get to the Island "île de Ré", a popular vacation spot for Parisians.

"We know that secondary residents arrived because there were a lot of people in the supermarkets, the police had to intervene at Leclerc in Saint-Martin-de-Ré to remind people about the rules", said Patrick Rayton, mayor of La Couarde- sur-Mer on the île de Ré.

The island has already asked the regional health agency to reopen the hospital normally in place during the summer in Saint-Martin-de-Ré.

"The problem, which is why we asked the police to help, are certain behaviours... It was nice out so people took bikes and participated in nautical activities", president of the communes of Ré, Lionel Quillet said.

In some areas, police issued hundreds of fines to people on the beach.

"We are in confinement not holiday," said Pascal Massicot, the president of the towns of île d'Oléron, just south of Ré.

In Morbihan, a department in Brittany particularly impacted by coronavirus, authorities prohibited "access to beaches, coastal paths and boat launching areas" on Thursday.

All nautical activities are also banned in many of these regions.

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