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Covid: France mobilises 100,000 police to stop New Year’s Eve gatherings

French gendarme

image copyrightReuters

France is to mobilise 100,000 police and gendarmes on New Year’s Eve to break up parties and enforce a curfew imposed to combat coronavirus.

The extra security also aims at halting the torching of cars that often takes place on the final night of the year.

France has confirmed 2.6m Covid-19 cases, the fifth highest total in the world, and more than 64,000 deaths.

Like other European countries, France will see muted celebrations for New Year’s Eve amid the pandemic.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has ordered a visible security presence in city centres and flashpoint suburbs from 20:00, when the curfew begins.

In Paris half of the metro lines will be closed in the evening, while Mr Darmanin also asked for a wider public transport shutdown across the country to be considered.

Despite rising cases, and concerns over a new more contagious strain of the disease, a government spokesman said there was no need for local lockdowns for now. France has had two national lockdowns and bars, restaurants and cultural attractions will remain closed into January.

Mr Darmanin has written to regional leaders informing them of Thursday’s “exceptional” mobilisation of 100,000 police and gendarmes.

This would amount to an “affirmation of state authority in every part of the national territory”, he said.

Officers will be instructed to break up underground parties as soon as they are reported, fine participants and identify the organisers.

Patrols meanwhile are to carry out “appropriate identity checks” and search vehicles for “dangerous elements” that could be used against officers.

Paris metro

image copyrightEPA

Mr Darmanin is also encouraging shops to limit or stop the sale of flammable liquids in portable containers and takeaway alcoholic drinks.

He has also suggested that local authorities do not publicise incidents of cars set alight to “avoid any incidence of ‘competition'” between different areas.

Car burning has effectively become an annual event in French suburbs since riots in 2005 in Paris and elsewhere.

Last year a record 1,457 cars were torched across France on New Year’s Eve, according to media reports. The previous year’s figure was 1,290.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that a further 20 million people in England will be placed into the toughest tier of restrictions from Thursday.

“I must ask you to follow the rules where you live tomorrow night and see in the new year safely at home,” Mr Johnson said during a press conference.

The whole of mainland Scotland has been under level four – the top tier of measures – since 26 December and will remain there for at least three weeks. People have been urged to remain at home on New Year’s Eve.

Ireland will move to its highest level of restrictions on Thursday, banning all household visits, closing all non-essential retail and limiting travel to 5km.

Germany is currently under lockdown until 10 January. The government has banned the sale of fireworks and put in place tight restrictions on the number of people who can gather in public.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said he expects the country to have the “quietest New Year’s Eve” in living memory.

The Netherlands is currently under a lockdown which is set to last until 19 January. Its usual countdown will take place behind closed doors at a football stadium in Amsterdam.

Turkey will begin a four-day-long lockdown on New Year’s Eve.

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