Paris was preparing on Sunday to be placed under maximum coronavirus alert as alarming Covid-19 infection numbers appeared to leave the French government little choice but to tighten restrictions in and around the capital. Paris’s trademark bars and cafes are threatened with complete closure as early as Monday after Health Minister Olivier Veran announced that only improved Covid-19 infection rates could prevent such a step. If recent trends were confirmed “we’ll have no choice”, he warned on Thursday, saying new restrictions would mean “no more family gatherings, no more evenings out, and a total closure of bars”.But a reprieve looks unlikely after France reported a 16,972 new coronavirus cases on Saturday alone, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing. Figures from the regional health agency ARS show new coronavirus cases remaining above 250 per 100,000 people in Paris, a threshold triggering the maximum alert protocol which has already hit the southern cities Aix-en-Provence and Marseille and their surroundings, as well as the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe. “There is no justification for denial,” said the ARS director for the Paris region, Aurelien Rousseau, on Sunday. “The numbers are what they are, and they are weighing heavily,” he tweeted.‘We’re French, we love to drink’ Interior minister Gerald Darmanin acknowledged that the looming closure of bars and cafes would be “tough” for everyone concerned.“We are French, we love to drink, to eat, to live, to smile and to kiss each other,” he told broadcasters LCI and Europe 1 on Sunday. “But we’re also doing this because the people want us to,” he added. BFM television on Sunday published a poll saying that 61 percent of people living in Paris and its suburbs were in favour of a complete closure of bars, which are currently authorised to remain open until 10 pm. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo told reporters on Sunday that “it’s not a done deal, there is still work being done, we’re still talking”. But she also conceded that the health situation was “very serious”.