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COVID-19: France adds Dunkirk to its list of places to go into lockdown this weekend

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By Euronews with AP, AFP
Multiple areas of France will now be placed under lockdown this weekend
Multiple areas of France will now be placed under lockdown this weekend   -   Copyright  Michel Euler/AP
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Dunkirk has been included as the latest location in France to be placed under lockdown this weekend to push back against a spike in coronavirus cases, authorities have confirmed.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said the recent surge was "alarming" in the area around Dunkirk, which sits on France's northern coast, adding that he would ensure more vaccines are supplied.

The infection rate, here, has now surpassed 900 cases per 100,000 people.

"We will reinforce our testing policy to detect, isolate and treat sick people during the entire duration," Veran said of the Friday-Monday measures. "And of course, as we did in Nice, we will increase the number of vaccines delivered in order to better protect the most vulnerable people in this region as there will be 16,700 additional doses of vaccine which will reinforce the vaccination campaign in the region, so 8,200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 8,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"It will be part redeployment of vaccines within the region and part an additional national delivery."

Veran's announcement on Wednesday comes just two days after residents in the southeastern Alpes-Maritimes region were informed they would also be placed into lockdown for the next two weekends.

In total, this will impact nearly 1.5 million people, including 1.1 million in Alpes-Maritimes and 250,000 in Dunkirk and Hauts-de-Flandre. Residents will only be allowed out for an hour during the daytime within a five-kilometre radius from their home and for a very limited set of reasons. These include essential shopping, visiting a doctor, carrying out physical activity and walking pets.

France has so far managed to avoid a third national lockdown, opting instead for other countrywide restrictions such as 6pm-6am curfew.

However, on Wednesday, authorities reported another 31,519 new cases of COVID-19 - a steep rise from the 25,018 cases from a week ago.

It's also the biggest number of daily infections since November.

Veran has confirmed he will discuss other high-risk areas at a scheduled press conference on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Alpes-Maritimes Prefect Bernard Gonzalez told reporters that his region had one of the country's highest incidence rates with nearly 600 cases per 100,000 people. He said hospital wards were close to being overwhelmed and described the situation as "very worrying."

Shops with a surface of over 5,000 square metres have now been ordered shut from Tuesday for at least 15 days, while the number of people allowed at any given time in shops of over 400 square metres has been reduced to one person for every 15 square metres down from 10 square metres.

Checks at the border with Italy will also be reinforced, as well as those carried out at airports, Gonzalez said, raising the possibility of testing every passenger on certain flights.

Nice mayor Christian Estrosi said on Twitter that he was "satisfied" with the latest announcement. "Everything must be done to protect our Nice's inhabitants and our département," he added.

With more than 84,300 lives lost to the pandemic, France is the world's seventh worst-hit country and the third in Europe after the UK and Italy.