Emmanuel Macron changes his tactic in the face of Covid-19. It imposes local restrictions, discarded since the Marseilles rebellion in September. The Cote d’Azur, totally confined for the next two weekends. Dunkirk, next example. The English strain triggers infections in both border areas. Until now it was taboo. Although the incidence rate was very different, the French Government acted at the national level, with the minimal exception of Guyana. Thus throughout France, there is a curfew from six in the afternoon to six in the morning, and museums, cinemas, and theaters are closed. And bars, cafes, and restaurants. As well as gyms and department stores. The schools, all open.

The population supports this egalitarian approach, although support for the government declines as fatigue from restrictions increases. Faced with pressure from his Scientific Council, President Macron decided in early February not to tighten the confinement. In his decision, the fear of incidents such as those that occurred in the Netherlands and the data on wastewater that anticipated a drop in infections, confirmed over time, weighed. The only challenge noted came from the far-right mayor of Perpignan, Louis Aliot. It reopened its four local museums. The executive did not ruffle his hair. The prefect (civil governor) of the department (province) appealed to the courts and Justice restored the closure.


That was until now. The new strategy will be applied with the precision of a scalpel where infections are triggered. In the department of the Alpes-Maritimes, the incidence rate has risen to 588 out of 100,000 with a peak in the metropolis of Nice (700 positives) compared to the national average of 190. Answer: the coast (where 90% of the population lives of the department), confined for the next two weekends, in principle. This means that from six o’clock on Friday afternoon until six o’clock on Monday morning you cannot leave the house. Exceptions and crowded: one hour to do the shopping, go to the doctor, walk the dog or stretch your legs. Maximum, 5 km around the home. All shops except pharmacies and food closed. Bolt-on the French Riviera, in a word.

The measures were announced by the government authority at the local level, the perfect. And immediately applauded by the Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi. A right-wing mayor ‘Macron compatible’. Estrosi belongs to the Republicans (integrated into the EPP), he was a minister in the governments of Dominique de Villepin and François Fillon and the face of immigration, for example, he maintains very tough positions, close to those of the National Front, which obtains its best results. Estrosi, descended from Italian immigrants, was a motorcycle racer and lacks studies.

But he has a political nose. And he knows that to achieve things that are not within the reach of a mayor you have to get along with the government. No complaining about the measures or saying that they are late, as other mayors of the same party in the area have done. All good words. Estrosi always tries to lead the way. Brushstrokes. On Sunday he denounced “the presence of tourists at Christmas” as a cause of the current critical situation. In ‘France Info’ he stated, “At the Nice international airport we went from 20 flights to 120, coming from Anglo-Saxon countries, Scandinavia, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, etc. We cannot allow it.”


No comment. But among the government’s measures for the Côte d’Azur, there is a discreet line that reads “Random PCR tests on full arrival flights at Cannes and Nice airports”. For example from Monday night, all passengers on a Tunisair flight were subjected to a PCR test even though they had the certificate of having already passed one. The measure only applies to countries that do not belong to the Schengen zone such as Morocco, Turkey, Russia, or the United Kingdom. Nothing is said about the border, specifically. But one can only travel five kilometers from home.

No more going to eat on the Italian Riviera or have coffee in Monaco. In addition to the restrictions, vaccination will be given a boost as demanded by several local authorities. The good understanding between the prefect and the mayor of Nice has allowed Macron to change pace. In September, when he implemented a curfew in the metropolises most affected by the resurgence of infections, he ran into the mayor (ecologist) of Marseille and the regional authorities (on the right) who protested against the measure. And they gave wings to the angry protests of the restorers.


The second wave took Macron to the cultural and leisure bolt in early November. Up to now. When reopening plans begin to be drawn up, threatened by the superior contagiousness of the English strain. The latter is responsible for 70% of the new cases in Dunkirk where the incidence has soared to 901 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. A very local ‘bag’ because in the department, bordering Belgium, it is at 266 / 100,000. Yesterday, Prime Minister Jean Castex met with left-wing mayor Patrice Vergriete. Castex announced “additional measures” to curb the pandemic and called for “local consultation.” The active Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, who was in Nice on Sunday, is going to Dunkirk this Wednesday.