Elite sport to continue in France despite lockdown - minister

FILE PHOTO: French Junior Minister for Sports Roxana Maracineanu arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - Elite sport will continue in France despite a nationwide lockdown announced by President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, sports minister Roxana Maracineanu said.

“The coming weeks will be tough economically but also humanely. This is why I wanted to confirm to you that the continuity of the sport which is practised as a profession is today assured,” Maracineau told a parliament session overnight.

Maracineanu's comments will come as welcome news for France's top soccer league, Ligue 1, as well as French rugby with the national side set to host Ireland on Saturday in their Six Nations finale.

The Paris Masters tennis tournament is also due to begin on Monday.

France will go back into a nationwide lockdown starting this week to try to contain the pandemic, which is threatening to spiral out of control, Macron said in an address to the nation on Wednesday.

The new measures -- which come into force on Friday and will last until Dec. 1 -- will mean people have to stay in their homes except to buy essential goods, seek medical attention, or use their daily one-hour allocation of exercise.

All professional sports came to a halt amid the first lockdown from mid-March to the end of May, resulting in the Ligue 1 being stopped in April, while cycling's Tour de France and the French Open tennis were rescheduled to a later date.

"High-level athletes will be allowed to train. And then we will be allowed to compete because travelling for professional reasons is allowed," Maracineanu added.

The Ligue 1 match between Olympique de Marseille and RC Lens Ligue 1, which was due to be played on Friday, has been pushed back to a later date after more than 10 players from the northern club have tested positive for coronavirus.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Peter Rutherford & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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