‘We’re in despair’: Marseille bars protest against COVID shutdown

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Hundreds of restaurant owners and bar staff protested outside Marseille’s commercial court on Friday against a government order to shut from Saturday to curb the surge in new coronavirus cases in France’s second biggest city.

The government ordered bars and restaurants in the city to close for two weeks after placing Marseille and its surrounds on the Mediterranean on the maximum alert level for the spread of the virus.

But Marseille residents and local officials say the move is disproportionate to the risks and will devastate the local economy.

“We’re in complete despair. When they shut us down, they humiliate us,” said restaurateur Bernard Marty.

“This doesn’t just penalise the restaurateur behind the till. It’s an entire sector plunged into crisis: suppliers, event organisers, discotheques. Do they expect us to die in silence?”

Renaud Muselier, president of the regional council of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, which includes Marseille, said a legal injunction seeking reprieve would be filed.

Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne said the government would act to cover the fixed costs of bars and restaurants during the shutdown. Partial unemployment schemes would guarantee employees receive their full salary, she added.

“We have to act now to avoid finding ourselves in the same situation we experienced in March,” Borne told CNews.

Health Minister Olivier Veran will travel to Marseille in the afternoon. The protesters said they would intercept him with their chants of “let’s stay open”.

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