PARIS (Reuters) – Restaurateurs and their staff on Friday stood in front of their restaurants in Paris wearing black arm-bands and banging pots and pans, urging the French government not to order tighter restrictions to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday the Paris region was set to be placed on maximum COVID-19 alert from as soon as Monday as cases rise.
Restaurant owners fear new closures could force them out of business. Bars and restaurants in the French capital must close by 10 pm under current coronavirus restrictions.
“It’s a great concern for our jobs, for our wages, for our future,” Andrea Vincenzi, who manages La Ville de Provins restaurant in northern Paris near the Gare de l’Est railway station, told Reuters.
Trade unions covering the hospitality sector were due to meet on Friday at the Health Ministry.
To head off closures, they have proposed measures including taking the temperature of staff and customers before allowing them into venues, limiting the number of people at a table to 8 from 10 and keeping a register of customers’ details for contact tracing, similar to schemes in place in Germany, Britain and elsewhere.
Veran said the Paris region had passed all three of the government’s criteria for being put on the highest level of alert. In the past 24 hours, the coronavirus infection rate had surpassed 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Double Michelin-starred chef Philippe Etchebest urged fellow restaurant and bar owners to protest against the possible closure of their establishments, calling on them to stand outside their venues on Friday before lunch service and make some noise.
Veran has ordered bars and restaurants in the southern city of Marseille to shut for two weeks.
(Reporting by Thierry Chiarello and Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Matthieu Protard; Editing by Janet Lawrence)