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Martinique enters new lockdown to tackle Covid-19 crisis, asks tourists to leave

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France’s overseas territory of Martinique will enter a tougher lockdown for three weeks starting Tuesday to tackle a Covid-19 outbreak on the West Indian island, a local government official said on Twitter.

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Martinique had already imposed an evening curfew, but the tougher Covid-19 lockdown, set to start from 7pm, will shutter non-essential shops, close beaches and clamp down on people’s movements.

Authorities in Martinique have also advised tourists to leave the island.

“We will be entering a second phase of lockdown … Shops will close, except for food shops and pharmacies,” said Stanislas Cazelles, the prefect for Martinique, who encouraged “all vulnerable tourists to leave the territory”.

“Hotels will be closed – except to professionals and residents of the territory; the same goes for seasonal rentals,” the prefect added. “Stores useful for the back-to-school period” will reopen “when the health situation has improved”, he said.

“Firms and civil services are also encouraged to participate in this lockdown, organising their services so that a maximum of employees can work from home,” Cazelles added.

The prefect said culture and leisure facilities would be closed, including beaches, which “will no longer be accessible to the public”.

Residents must also restrict their movements to a maximum one-kilometre radius from their homes.

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“These rules are strict. They will be lifted as soon as the health situation allows it,” the official pledged, saying the measures would be re-evaluated “in 15 days”.

Last weekend, French Health Minister Olivier Véran appealed to volunteer doctors and nurses to travel to the overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique as a wave of Covid-19 infections overwhelms hospitals on the two Caribbean islands.

On Tuesday, some 240 healthcare professionals are due to arrive to begin a 15-day mission in support. Véran is slated to travel to Martinique on Thursday.

Martinique has one of France’s highest Covid-19 incidence rates, with nearly 1,200 cases per 100,000 people and hospitals stretched to 227 percent of capacity. The island also has a low rate of vaccination against Covid-19 compared to mainland France; only 22 percent of Martinique’s population has received a first dose of the vaccine.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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