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

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

The plan also aims to prevent urban unrest, which has seen large numbers of vehicles set alight in previous years.

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.

Mr Darmanin has also asked for a wider public transport shutdown across the country to be considered.

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

Officials have said that in areas with rising infection rates the overnight curfew could be brought forward to 18:00.

However 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.

What are the plans for New Year’s Eve?

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.

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.

The French authorities stopped providing such figures several years ago amid fears it was sparking copycat actions.


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