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Coronavirus: France bans access to beaches and mountains

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A sign reads "access denied to the beach" at l'ïle de Ré, France, March 18, 2020.
A sign reads "access denied to the beach" at l'ïle de Ré, France, March 18, 2020.   -   Copyright  AFP/Xavier Leoty
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A growing number of local authorities have started to ban access to beaches and mountains as several people aren't able to resist the call of the seaside or the mountains despite France starting its fourth day in lockdown.

In Morbihan, Brittany, authorities have prohibited by order access to the beaches and coastal paths of this department.

The prefectural decree, signed on March 18, reported on the "significant presence of people (walkers, cyclists and sportsmen) on the Morbihan coast (...) which generates a risk of spreading the virus by gathering people, including in small groups.

The prefecture therefore prohibits access to beaches, coastal paths and boat launching wedges until March 31, 2020, "with the exception of professionals whose activity requires access to such places."

Several seaside resorts, facing the influx of walkers, decided on Wednesday to close access to their beach to enforce the instructions to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

Cities such as La Baule-Escoublac and Pornichet also put barriers along its coastal paths and access to the beach.

On Tuesday, in Finistère, another department in Brittany, authorities had already noted "a very large number of visitors to Finistère beaches" the day following Macron's lockdown announcement.

"The police have sanctioned them with a fine," Finistère's prefecture declared in a statement, which recalled "a walk or a boat trip can not constitute an exception to lockdown on the motives of the practice of physical exercise. "

Not respecting such containment measures can go from a €135 to a €375 fine, it added.

No more surfing

The Atlantic Maritime Prefecture also recalled on Wednesday the ban on sea excursions, except for professional activities.

In a press release, it stressed that "all nautical activities, whatever they are, are prohibited", in particular boating or sailboarding.

Authorities in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (south-west) have called to order the surfers who braved the lockdown instructions by going surfing on the Atlantic coast. Several municipalities have thus taken the decision to close access to the coast.

The French Surf Federation had also spread the word in recent days, from canceled competitions to closed clubs, it shared the call to stay at home: "Each surfer is a citizen like the others and he must respect the instructions".

Access to mountains restricted

In the French mountains, especially in the Alps, where numerous interventions by the emergency services took place last weekend (by High Mountain Gendarmerie), the authorities strictly prohibit mountain outings.

Orders have not yet been issued, but hiking, cross-country skiing and mountaineering are therefore to be avoided.

The prefecture of Haute-Savoie confirmed to Euronews on Thursday that checks had been carried out in the areas of Chamonix and Sallanches, in the Mont Blanc area. Offenders will be fined just like walkers on the beaches.

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If the objective of lockdown is to contain as much as possible any risk of contagion, the aim of these controls and restrictions in the mountains is to allow hospitals and rescue services to devote themselves fully to the fight against the COVID-19, Haute-Savoie prefecture added.