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French port of Dunkirk proposes ban on public gatherings over COVID surge

by Reuters
Tuesday, 23 February 2021 12:15 GMT

(Adds Dunkirk mayor comments)

PARIS, Feb 23 (Reuters) - The northern French port of Dunkirk is urging the government to impose a ban on all public gatherings there until March 15 as a "last chance" move to halt a spike in COVID-19 infections.

Dunkirk, which has a population of 92,000 has one of the highest French coronavirus infection rates, notably with the UK variant, in the country, with more than 900 new cases per week per 100,000 residents, compared to a national average of 202.

"We want absolutely no meetings, no public gatherings ... this is our last chance," Dunkirk Mayor Patrice Vergriete told a news conference on Tuesday.

He said he did not advocate a partial weekend lockdown such as in the Mediterranean city of Nice, but added he would not oppose it if the government imposed such a measure.

Health Minister Olivier Veran will head to Dunkirk, between the port of Calais and the Belgian border, on Wednesday as the government eyes new measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus in the region, the prime minister's office said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex had discussed the local health situation with the Dunkirk mayor on Tuesday.

"They agreed that in view of the sharp deterioration in health indicators in recent hours, additional measures to limit the epidemic must be taken," the statement said.

A government source said on Monday that in Dunkirk - which lies across the channel from Britain - the spike had a similar dynamic to that seen in Nice, a resort close to the Italian border, where infection rates surged following an inflow of tourists over the Christmas holiday.

The Alpes-Maritimes region around Nice on Monday announced a partial lockdown over the next two weekends. (Reporting by Elisabeth Pineau, Dominique Vidalon and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Catherine Evans and Alison Williams)

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