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Coronavirus: France's latest local measures see bars and restaurants close in Marseille

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A woman is tested for COVID-19 at a mobile testing center in Marseille, France, Thursday Sept. 24, 2020.
A woman is tested for COVID-19 at a mobile testing center in Marseille, France, Thursday Sept. 24, 2020.   -   Copyright  Daniel Cole/AP
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Bars and restaurants in the French port city of Marseille and nearby Aix en Provence closed on Sunday night as a part of local measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Renaud Muselier, the president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, which includes Marseille, announced the closures on Sunday, adding they were expected to remain in force two weeks.

The island of Guadeloupe also saw bars and restaurants shut their doors.

It came after France's central government toughened measures in eleven French cities, including Paris, where bars must close at 10 pm from Monday.

Infections and hospitalisations in these areas are on the rise but infection rates per 100,000 inhabitants remain lower than Marseille and Guadeloupe.

The measures have been met with some local resistance. Crowds on Friday protested in front of a Marseille courthouse, and some business owners threatened to defy the closure order.

In Paris, restaurateurs, bar and nightclub owners, as well as representatives from the hotel and catering sectors, also gathered to demonstrate against the toughening of guidelines.

One of France's top medical figures on Sunday warned that the country could see a COVID-19 surge spanning months that could overwhelm its health system.

He added that fresh warnings during the week from Health Minister Olivier Veran did not go far enough.

"The second wave is arriving faster than we thought," Patrick Bouet, head of the National Council of the Order of Doctors, told French weekly newspaper the Journal du Dimanche.

"He (Veran) didn't say that in three to four weeks, if nothing changes, France will face a widespread outbreak across its whole territory, for several long autumn and winter months," Bouet said.

On Thursday, France reported more than 16,000 new infections, and more than 10 per cent of intensive care beds nationwide are now occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The country has reported 31,511 virus-related deaths, among the highest tolls in Europe.