BREAKING: Stay at home, says president

All of France should stay at home from 12noon on Tuesday, President Macron announces, in bid to control spread of virus as cases spiral.

We are at war, says president

'Stay at home' from 12noon tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17, for at least two weeks, says president. Only go out for work, shopping, medical reasons and exercise (alone).

The current number of Covid-19 cases, since January 24, is 5,423 with 127 deaths and the number is doubling every three days.

President Macron made the announcement in a televised address to the nation at 20:00 tonight.

The address follows an emergency lunchtime meeting of the Conseil de défense and confirms reports in French media that the government was planning quarantine rules similar to those already operating in Italy and Spain.

In Italy, authorities have ordered everyone to stay inside unless they have reason to go out, such as work, a medical appointment or to buy food. People there have to self-declare online giving a reason for being out of the house, which must be handed to authorities on demand. Lying on the document could result in a fine of up to €206 or even a spell in prison. There are also limits on which shops can open.

France's top health official Jérôme Salomon this morning warned of a “fast-deteriorating” public health situation. “There is a real worry the speed of the outbreak could saturate hospitals,” he said.

"How can I, as of today, divide by three or four the number of people I come in contact with?" he said. "Stay at home, it's as simple as that."

France had stepped up coronavirus restrictions at the weekend, ordering cafes and restaurants to remain closed, along with all 'non-essential commercial activity' - and limiting long-distance travel unless 'strictly necessary'.

But many people ignored government warnings. with parks and gardens and other public areas busy in cities across France - which prompted Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to close the capital's parks and gardens on Monday.

Speaking before the first round of voting in this year's local elections yesterday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that he had "seen too many people", who had ignored official advice on social distancing. "I would normally be happy about this, but for a few weeks it's not what we should be doing," he said.

"The best way to slow the virus is social distancing."

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