The deserted streets of Nice, in the south of France, are being patrolled by police drones warning people to stay indoors and observe the coronavirus lockdown.
The machines are whirring down Nice’s palm-fringed Promenade des Anglais barking out orders from a loudspeaker, warning citizens to remain at least one metre apart to prevent transmission of the deadly virus that has killed 372 people in France and infected at least 10,000.
France has told citizens to stay indoors except to buy food, go to work or seek medical help, as it fights a virtual explosion of coronavirus cases that threatens to grow rapidly.
France's Director General of Health, Jérôme Salomon, said: “The epidemic is large and spreading, spreading rapidly and intensely.”
He added that the number of cases had risen to 10,995, up from 9,134 on Tuesday – a rise of 20% in 24 hours.
M. Salomon said 1,122 people were in a serious condition, needing life support, up 20.5% compared to Wednesday.
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President Emmanuel Macron has expressed frustration that people are not taking public health orders seriously.
He said: “When I see that people continue to go to the park, to socialise together, to go to the beach or to rush in the open markets, it is clear that they did not understand the messages.”
Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, has announced he will be shutting down the city’s picturesque Promenade des Anglais and that he might impose a curfew if necessary.
In some cases, police have arrested people for ‘“endangering lives” by walking through city streets.
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On Friday a legal source in Paris told the Daily Mail that “at least five people who refused to respect confinement had been put in police custody”
The national lockdown, originally planned to last for two weeks, is expected to be extended as the French public appear to be flouting the rules.
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France’s Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, told Europe 1 radio that “there are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules while they are in fact idiots.”
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