July 22, 2020 / 5:21 PM / 14 days ago

French resort tells tourists: welcome back, but wear a mask

A man, wearing a protective face mask, lies on a bench on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice as France softens its strict lockdown rules during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France, May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

LA BAULE-ESCOUBLAC, France (Reuters) - Pierre Guillou is pleased to be serving holiday-makers again at the beach restaurant he manages in this French seaside resort, but the COVID-19 epidemic is never far from his mind.

A restaurant 500 metres from his establishment had to close when they recorded cases of the virus, and he has had to turn away a small number of customers who refused to wear a mask.

“It’s heavy,” said Guillou, manager of the Fils de Maman restaurant, describing the challenges of juggling the summer season and its rush of holidaymakers with the fact France is still in the grip of an epidemic.

In total, France has recorded over 30,000 deaths linked to COVID-19. Months of strict lockdown have resulted in a big drop in the numbers of people getting infected, and the numbers in hospital with the virus.

Guillou’s restaurant, in La Baule-Escoublac on France’s Atlantic coast, was one of hundreds of thousands of restaurants, cafes and bars allowed to re-open when restrictions were eased.

Yet there have been isolated flare-ups of the virus in parts of France, and in neighbouring Spain some lockdown restrictions have been re-imposed to contain a surge centred on the city of Barcelona.

In La Baule this week, the beaches thronged with sunbathers and tourists flocked to the shops.

The town mayor, Franck Louvrier, said he would be vigilant to make sure people were respecting COVID safety precautions, especially the wearing of masks in enclosed public spaces.

“I wouldn’t want COVID to return on our territory,” he said. “My only objective is to protect the population. So if there’s a situation that gets worse, we will obviously take more drastic measures to protect residents.”

Reporting by Yann Tessier; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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