French city of Nice asks tourists to stay away amid COVID surge

·2-min read

PARIS (Reuters) - The mayor of Nice in southern France called on Sunday for a weekend lockdown in the area to reduce the flow of tourists as it battles a sharp spike in coronavirus infections to triple the national rate.

The Nice area has France's highest COVID-19 infection rate, with 740 new cases per week per 100,000 residents, according to Covidtracker.fr.

"We need strong measures that go beyond the nationwide 6 p.m. curfew, either tighter curfew, or a partial and time-specific lockdown. A weekend lockdown would make sense," Mayor Christian Estrosi said on franceinfo radio.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Saturday the government would decide this weekend on tightening virus control measures in the Mediterranean city.

Before ordering a second national lockdown in November, the government imposed curfews some cities and closed restaurants in Marseille, but it has generally refrained from regional measures due to protest from local politicians and businesses.

"We do not rule out local lockdowns," government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on LCI television.

He added that the trend in new cases was not good in recent days and that there was no case for loosening curfew.

"The weather is nice, everybody rushes to come here. A weekend lockdown would put a stop to that, without halting economic activity in the city," Estrosi said.

Estrosi said infection rates had leapt due to the massive inflow of tourists over the Christmas holiday. International flights to the city had jumped from 20 a day before Christmas to 120 over the holiday - all this without people having virus tests in their country of origin or on arrival.

"We will be happy to receive lots of tourists this summer, once we win this battle, but it is better to have a period while we say 'do not come here, this is not the moment'. Protecting the people of Nice is my priority," he said.

(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Frances Kerry and Raissa Kasolowsky)