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Bang your pots: top French chef calls for COVID protest

PARIS (Reuters) - One of France’s top chefs on Thursday urged fellow restaurant and bar owners to protest against the possible closure of their establishments, as the government considers tightening rules to control a second coronavirus wave.

Double Michelin-starred Philippe Etchebest, who frequently appears on TV cooking shows, pressed restaurateurs and their staff to stand on the street outside their venues on Friday before lunch service and make some noise.

“We will not die in silence,” he said on BFM television. “The government must understand that restaurants are not to blame for COVID and that closing our venues only moves the problem elsewhere,” he said.

Etchebest, who regularly acts as a spokesman for the industry and has been consulted by President Emmanuel Macron, said closing restaurants and bars would encourage people to gather in private homes, where he questioned whether social distancing rules were respected at all.

Health Minister Olivier Veran has already ordered bars and restaurants in the southern city of Marseille to shut for two weeks and said on Thursday that Paris could be placed on the maximum alert level from Monday, meaning similar measures there.

Alain Fontaine, owner of Le Meustret and president of the Association of Master Restaurateurs, said restaurants only accounted for 2% of coronavirus clusters in France.

“We don’t understand why we’re being targeted,” he said. “It’s going a bit far because we’re getting at a way of life. In Paris, cafes, bistros and restaurants are important socially.”

Like other European countries where infection rates have surged in the past month, France has once again been tightening restrictions on public life, hoping it will be enough to contain the disease and avoid a second national lockdown.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Mike Collett-White

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