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France and Poland ratchet up local COVID restrictions amid rising cases

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France and Poland ratchet up local COVID restrictions amid rising cases
Copyright  Lionel Cironneau/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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Dunkirk in Northern France is one of 20 departments in the country that has entered a stricter lockdown phase this weekend.

Recent reports show one in 100 people in the area has contacted COVID-19, according to health minister Olivier Véran.

The new measures mean the agglomeration's 250,000 inhabitants must wear masks in urban areas, and can only travel for essential reasons. Dunkirk market is open with police controlling numbers, giving out hand sanitiser, and enforcing mask-wearing.

France already has a nationwide 6pm curfew in place and now weekend lockdowns for those in certain areas mean a quasi-return to the early days of the pandemic.

According to one local woman in Dunkirk, heading to the market is about the only thing people can do outside their home for the coming weekends.

"You have to go to the market on Saturday morning and then you come home and stay there, and that's it," she said.

The same rules apply in the Alpes Maritimes department in southeastern France where Nice is located.

Inhabitants there can exercise or walk pets but for no longer than one hour and no further than 5 km from their home.

In addition, Nice's beaches will also be out of bounds for at least the next two weekends.

Meanwhile, in Poland, the northeastern Warminsko-Mazurskie province has been named "a high-risk infection zone" following a surge in case numbers. That means hotels, cinemas, theatres and shopping centres are now closed until March 14.

But some see the tightening of restrictions, including the ban on any scarves or face-mask substitutes, as prudent.

"We are already accustomed to these restrictions. Frankly speaking, I am glad that they are in force. I, myself had a hard time with COVID-19, and it irritates me when people ignore this situation and walk around with masks on their chins or with scarves. So I support these measures," one local man said.

Parents of students in grades one to three (aged six to nine) will have children at home once again as classes move online.