Paris (AFP)

Faced with the "recrudescence" of the coronavirus epidemic, 21 departments (including 19 new) are now in the red zone and the wearing of masks will become compulsory everywhere in Paris, the government wanting to "do everything" to avoid "generalized reconfinement "devastating for the economy.

"The epidemic is regaining ground, and now is the time to intervene", warned Prime Minister Jean Castex during a press conference in Matignon with Minister of Health Olivier Véran and Minister of Education , Jean-Michel Blanquer.

In Paris, Mr. Castex announced that "the prefect, after consultation with the mayor (Anne Hidalgo), will extend the wearing of masks throughout the capital", an obligation which until then concerned only a few areas.

"The question obviously arises for the inner suburbs, given the traffic between these territories," he added.

This decision follows that of Marseille, the second most populous city, which made the wearing of the mask mandatory the day before and also decreed the closure of bars and restaurants at 11:00 p.m. throughout the Bouches-du-Rhône department, a measure that the government does not exclude for Paris either.

The head of government noted an "indisputable upsurge in the epidemic" which "is progressing throughout the territory", with "39 positive cases per 100,000, four times more than a month ago".

The epidemic has killed 30,544 people in France and more than 5,000 new cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in France in the past 24 hours, according to data provided on Wednesday by Public Health France, a new record since the end of containment in May.

"The virus's reproduction rate is above 1, which means it is gaining ground. We were down to 0.7 in May. We went back to 1.4", and "the positivity is increasing for all age groups, ”he said.

As for the number of hospitalizations, it "is slowly but surely starting to rise. More than 800 Covid patients are admitted to hospital per week at the moment, against 500 6 weeks ago," he said.

Faced with this return of the virus, "our objective is to do everything to avoid an especially generalized re-containment", as in the spring, affirmed the head of government for whom this goal is "within our collective reach".

After middle and high schools, wearing a mask also becomes compulsory in higher education. To summarize the situation, he underlined a "simple rule": wearing a mask is now compulsory "in all closed spaces where several people are located".

For his part, Mr. Véran announced the government's intention to "increase in the short term to one million tests per week" to curb the epidemic, against more than 800,000 currently.

The Minister of Health, wishing to "avoid as much as possible" a generalized re-containment of nursing homes which would be "very painful", also pleaded for the restrictions on family visits to retirement homes to be decided "in a manner that is always proportionate" .

To enforce anti-Covid measures, Mr. Castex emphasized controls. According to its figures, 700 verbalizations are issued every day across the country for non-compliance with the obligation to wear a mask.

The Prime Minister also encouraged the French to "avoid family celebrations as much as possible" or "that grandpa and grandma pick up the children from school".

With a plummet in growth which is expected to contract to -11% this year, weighed down by the confinement that brought the economy to a halt in the spring during confinement, Mr. Castex wishes to avoid another generalized reconfinement.

One week before the presentation of the recovery plan, which will inject 100 billion euros into the economy, he announced his intention to support economic sectors which "still suffer the impact of health protection measures" such as those of the culture, sport, tourism, events.

© 2020 AFP