A 'third wave' of COVID-19 cases in Northern France have put the region where Paris-Roubaix is held under new lockdown restrictions, sparking questions on whether the men's Monument and the first edition of the women's race can be held or not. France has seen a sharp spike in cases as the new, more transmissible variant first detected in the UK has become the predominant strain. There were 34,998 new cases reported on Thursday.
Even more concerning, a variant detected in Brittany was found to evade the PCR detection methods used to screen the race 'bubble' of riders, team and race staff.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday that 16 French départements will enter new lockdowns including Nord, home to Roubaix, and Oise, where the start in Compiègne is located.
"The situation is deteriorating," Castex said according to The Local. France is not imposing national restrictions but the latest surge has 1200 patients in critical care in Paris alone, sparking the regional measures.
"These confinement measures will not be a repeat of those we imposed in March and last November," he said, clarifying that schools will remain open. But the new restrictions limit non-essential trips and travel from locked down départements to other regions except for work-related trips and a 7 p.m. curfew.
Vaccinations against the virus were halted this week following reports of some patients developing blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the cases were found to likely not be caused by the shot, and distribution is expected to resume on Friday.
Like in 2020, the measures are a race against the virus and will take weeks to have an impact, putting both Paris-Roubaix races, just three weeks away, again under threat. The race was postponed amid continent-wide lockdowns last April and although both races were rescheduled for October, a second peak last autumn led to the unfortunate cancellation of the races. La Dernière Heure reports that race director Thierry Gouvenou had obtained all necessary authorisations to hold the races in early March.
It is as yet unclear whether the new measures would change the status of Paris-Roubaix, scheduled for April 11.
Health Minister Oliver Véran said, "We really hope that with these braking measures we will pass the peak of this wave and on the other side of this wave we will find spring and unlike last year the protection of the population through vaccination."
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