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Why so many cases in the Alpes-Maritimes?

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A weekend jam will be in place along the Alpes-Maritime coastline for at least the next two weeks due to the high number of Covid-19 cases there. Covid: Blocking the next two weekends for the French Riviera

Alpes-Maritimes is the most affected department in France, but there is no consensus on why the number of Covid cases there is higher than in other parts of the country.

Infectious disease specialist Samuel Alizon said there could be many reasons.

At the departmental level, local specifics play a large role and it is very complicated to highlight causal effects, France Alfoon, who is also a research director at the Frances National Center for Scientific Research, told Franceinfo.

He added, the growth observed in the Marine Alps is certainly multi-factorial.

The incidence rate – the number of positive Covid-19 cases recorded per 100,000 inhabitants – in the Alpes-Maritime is 583.

In the city of Nice, it stands at 735, the most of any city in metropolitan France. The national incidence rate is 201.7

We look at some of the possible reasons why the Alpes-Maritimes is affected worse than other areas.

Tourism and climate

Alpes-Maritimes Prefecture Bernard Gonzalez said yesterday (February 22nd) when announcing the weekend blockade that the department’s “withdrawal for tourists” is one explanation.

The department recorded the third highest number of nights booked in hotels in 2019 in France after Paris and Seine-et-Marne, show figures from the national statistics institute Frances Insee.

Tourists are attracted by the warm weather and the beaches that cross the coastline.

Health Minister Olivier Vran visited the department on Saturday (February 20th). He stated that tourism and warm weather could play a role.

They come to enjoy the fresh air and they can feel safe on the shore. That is not true, he said.

The other two departments in the southeast of France, Var and Bouches-du-Rhne, also have high incidence rates, 307 and 331, respectively.

Nice Mayor Christian Estros had introduced a holiday rental ban in the city for most of February in an attempt to curb the number of tourists coming to the city, but the decision was overturned by an administrative court.

The court judge stated that there had not been any large influx of tourists to Cte dAzur, where Nica is located, and that the holiday rentals were already following strict sanitary measures.

Cross-border transmission

The Alpes-Maritimes also sits on the border of Monaco and Italy.

Other border departments in France, such as Nord and Moselle, also have a relatively high number of Covid-19 cases.

Color-coded departmental map of France. Departments with the highest Covid rates per 100,000 people are displayed in dark colors. Source: Data from CovidTracker

Earlier this year there were complaints that people from the Alpes-Maritimes department were traveling to Monaco to go to restaurants, which were still open there.

Monaco has introduced stricter rules. The restaurants are now only open for lunch service and only for Monaco residents or people who work or stay there. There is also a curfew from 19:00 to 06:00.

Anyone traveling to France from Italy will have to show the results of a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.

ALTERNATE

Mr Alizon pre-published a February 17 study on the presence of Covid-19 variants in France, such as the UK and South African variants.

He told Franceinfo that he believes the Alpes-Maritimes situation is linked to the spread of these variants, which our work shows is a priori the most transmitted.

However, in its last update Covid-19 published on February 19, Public Health France found that there were fewer reported cases of these variants in the Alpes-Maritimes than in Var and Bouches-du-Rhne.

Sant Publique France reported that nationwide, 36% of positive cases tested were found to be UK variants, while 5% were either South African or Brazilian variants.

The situation was already bad

Mr Alizon said the department was one of the first to have an increase in hospital admissions in early January, following the end-of-year break.

The department was one of the first in the country to pass a 18:00 curfew, rather than a 20:00 curfew, on January 2nd.

Mr. Alizon said the curfew has helped, but it makes sense that the situation in the Alpes-Maritimes is deteriorating earlier than other areas as it was already badly affected after the New Year.

Read more:

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