France tightens restrictions due to coronavirus outbreak

PARIS France decided on Friday to implement tougher restrictions on public activity to try to stem the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that has killed at least 61 people here and infected 2,876, with 129 of them in grave condition, according to day-earlier figures.

The latest figures for Friday have not yet been released but are expected to indicate an acceleration of the epidemic, now classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a pandemic.

In the meantime, on Friday, the Interior Ministry ordered a ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people, down from an earlier ceiling of 1,000. Some exemptions will be allowed for entertainment sites but most meetings, cultural events and even cinemas will now be banned.

At the same time, the world-famous Louvre Museum that receives millions of visitors every year will close Friday evening until further notice.

National carrier Air France has massively scaled back flights and Paris airports are considering closing some terminals due to a sharp drop in traffic.

The Health Ministry, in a statement, again urged people to take maximum “barrier” precautions in contacts with others and reemphasised the need to keep distance of one metre, wash hands and not cough or sneeze in crowded places.

On Thursday night, President Emmanuel Macron said in a nationwide address that efforts to stop the virus spreading rapidly had failed and that he was ordering all schools and universities in France to close as of next Monday.

He also encouraged the maximum number of people to work from home, restrict business travel and he promised help workers and sectors of the French economy hard hit by the ripple effect of the epidemic.

He also told people aged over 70, or those with serious illnesses or handicaps, to stay at home except for essential tasks like food shopping.

Macron’s office said today that an emergency video-conference of the powerful G7 countries would take place on Monday and he is also proposing a reinforcement of controls at European Union borders in the free-movement Schengen zone.

Source: Kuwait News Agency