By Sudip Kar-Gupta
PARIS (Reuters) – France has imposed a stricter evening curfew in Marseille after authorities said the new variant of the COVID-19 virus initially found in the UK had been discovered in the Mediterranean city.
Marseille joined other French cities such as Strasbourg and Dijon in having its curfew moved forward to 6 p.m. from 8 p.m., and running through to 6 a.m. the following morning. The stricter Marseille measures will start on Sunday evening.
The move came as COVID-19 related deaths and cases increased in France, which has the world’s seventh-highest death toll from the coronavirus. There were 20,177 new, confirmed COVID cases in the last 24 hours and roughly 170 more deaths.
Authorities said one reason for the decision in Marseille was the discovery of the new variant of COVID-19. Twenty-three people suspected of coming into contact with the new variant had tested positive for COVID, said the local health body.
The variant, which has been analysed as having a greater transmission rate, has been cited by the British government as the main reason for a flare-up in COVID-19 cases in the UK over the past month.
President Emmanuel Macron is battling to ensure France is not engulfed by a renewed sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, as has recently been the case in the UK and Germany, and is working on speeding up the country’s vaccine rollout.
In Paris the 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew hours remain unchanged for now, although the government has said it will not rule out stricter measures if the COVID situation worsens in France.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Mark Heinrich and David Holmes)