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-19 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-19, said the local health body.
The variant, which has been analyzed 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-19 situation worsens in France.
By Sudip Kar-Gupta