PARIS (Reuters) – French police cleared the banks of the River Seine in central Paris on Saturday over concerns people were getting too close together and not respecting coronavirus social distancing rules.
Hundreds of people were asked to leave the area – popular for strolling and picnicking on sunny days – and police officers closed the riverbanks for the rest of the day.
“Social distancing rules are not being respected,” police called out through a megaphone.
The police has regularly been clearing the area over the past few weeks with warmer weather bringing people out to take advantage of the sunshine before a curfew kicks in from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The Paris police on Friday banned the consumption of alcohol on the riverside and asked people to limit their gatherings.
The government has resisted putting the capital and its surrounding area back under lockdown despite a rise in coronavirus cases and growing numbers of patients in the capital’s intensive care units.
The country reported 23,306 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, just slightly down from 23,507 on Friday. There were 170 new deaths, taking the total to 88,444.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Jean Castex pledged to accelerate the vaccine rollout, including at weekends, in two dozen high-risk zones to stave off further restrictions after criticism over the country’s slow vaccination progress.
“This Saturday, at 17h30, 220,000 French people have been vaccinated, more than twice as many as last Saturday. We continue tomorrow,” Health Minister Oliver Veran said on Twitter.
As of Saturday, 3.581 million people have received a first jab in France.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Frances Kerry and Christina Fincher)