A week after the French government ruffled feathers in France’s second-largest city with an order to close restaurants and bars, Marseille officials have endorsed a call to form a scientific advisory panel unique to the city, separate from the national scientific council based in Paris.
During a city council meeting on Monday evening, Samia Ghali, deputy mayor for equality between territories, proposed a “scientific council for the city of Marseille”.
“We no longer want to be dependent on figures of certain Parisian scientists,” Ghali said in reference to the scientific council of experts appointed by the government in March to advise on policy decisions in response to the Covid-19 epidemic.
“We want to be in control to better decide and be in capacity to sent clear responses to the state in terms of health,” she continued, claiming the unpopular decision to close bars and restaurants last week was made “to mask [the state’s] failure to support Marseille’s hospitals”.
First deputy Benoit Payon approved the proposal and promised to deliver it to Mayor Michèle Rubirola, who was absent from the meeting due to a period of recovery from surgery.
Not about a war
Rubirola’s staff sought Tuesday to downplay the significance of the proposal, claiming what was being proposed was a “technical working commission”.
“It is not a scientific council, it’s not about a war between Marseille and Paris,” AFP agency cited an unnamed member of Rubirola’s staff as saying. “It’s a technical commission to create a central platform for all information related to Covid.”
Rubirola, who became mayor after campaigning with France’s Green party EELV in municipal elections this year, said Monday that she was seeing to form a “scientific and citizen council” for pubic health.
“Along with about 30 doctors in city hospitals, researchers and citizens, I have been working for several weeks towards the forming of a scientific and citizen council indispensable for taking better decisions and building a global response for health,” Rubirola wrote on Twitter.
The area around the Mediterranean city was the first placed on the French government’s new maximum alert level for Covid-19 after showing mainland France’s highest rates of infection and hospitalisation.
Anti-Parisian sentiment surfaced last week after the French government ordered restaurants and bars in Marseille and nearby Aix-en-Provence to close for 14 days as part of new restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Restaurants in the two cities were allowed to reopen on Monday, a week earlier than planned, on the condition that they adhere to restrictions similar to those applied in the Paris region.
Calls occassionaly surface in France’s regions and cities for more leeway in decision-making, driven by concern too much power and authority is centralised in Paris.
In April, during the last months of her term as a lawmaker in France’s Senate, Ghali made similar proposals for the creation of scientific councils at the level of France’s administrative departments to oversee transitions out of confinement.