Covid-19 in France: ‘Much bigger impact’ than thought

The coronavirus Covid-19 is expected to have a “much bigger impact” on France than thought, including on the economy, schools, high-profile events, tourist destinations, and cultural spaces.

2 March 2020
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Covid-19 may have more of an economic impact than previously thought
By Hannah Thompson

Today (Monday March 2), finance minister Bruno Le Maire said that he “was ready to release necessary funds” to help French businesses affected by the drop in economic growth due to the effects of the virus.

Mr Le Maire had already estimated that the French economy would grow by 0.1 point less in 2020 due to the coronavirus, when it was still limited to China.

He did not state a specific figure, but today said: “Now that the epidemic is affecting more countries, especially France and other European countries, the impact of coronavirus on French growth will be much more significant.”

Events

Among cultural events, book festival le Salon Livre Paris has become the latest event to be cancelled, after the government banned gatherings of more than 5,000 people; while the Louvre museum closed its doors to tourists yesterday as staff invoked their right to stop work in case of danger.

Similarly, the Salon de l’Agriculture in Paris was cut short 24 hours earlier (and also saw lower-than-normal attendance), while the Paris half-marathon was cancelled. The Mipim de Cannes global estate agent event has been postponed to June.

Some other cultural events - such as the Juste Debout dance competition, which was set to held at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris; and the Paris Manga & Sci-Fi Show, which was set to open at the Porte de Versailles next weekend - have also been cancelled.

Further cancellations of gigs, concerts, and cultural events are likely.

Schools

Schools in the “cluster zones” in France - the epicentres of the virus, including in the Oise and Haute-Savoie - have been closed, as have some in Morbihan (Brittany) after several “potentially-linked” cases of the virus were identified.

All school trips abroad have been suspended.

In the worst-affected areas of the Oise - including Creil, Crépy-en-Valois, Vaumoise, Lamorlaye, Lagny-le-Sec and La Balme - all schools remain closed, and health minister Olivier Véran said: “All gatherings are banned until further notice.”

He added: “We recommend inhabitants to limit their movements and if possible, work from home.”

On the cancellation of certain events, the sub-prefect for Nice-Montagne in the Alpes-Maritimes, Yoann Toubhans, said: “The idea is to use our common sense.

"I was contacted by a mayor...who wanted advice on a trail race organised in his commune. He said to me that it was possible that participants would be arriving from areas where the virus is spreading.

“So out of precaution, we agreed to cancel the event. But if, tomorrow, [another] mayor comes to me about a fair at a school in their commune, I would have no reason to ask for it to be cancelled, if the event is only going to involve several dozen people, from an area that has not been considered a problem.”

Poll shows French are worried about Covid-19

Yet, a recent poll has found that the French are more worried about Covid-19 than they were about the A/H1N1 ‘flu virus that circulated in 2009, avian flu in 2005, or Ebola in 2014.

In a poll by agency Ifop, for health information site llicomed.com, almost two thirds (61%) of French people said they were worried for themselves and their family.

This is a new record, compared to similar poll results about avian ‘flu in 2005-2006 (35% were worried); the A/H1N1 ‘flu from 2009 (again, 35% worried), and the 2014 Ebola virus (55% worried).

Older people aged 65 and over were the most worried (64%), but young people aged 18-24 were almost as concerned (60%).

Around half of French people said they were worried about going to a sports venue or using public transport.

Just less than half (49%) said they were concerned about going to nightclubs and bars, followed by 41% for cultural centres such as exhibition halls or cinemas; 32% about going to restaurants, 31% about doing their normal shopping; and 26% about going to their workplace.

One quarter (25%) said they were worried about going to voting booths, as municipal elections approach.

The poll was conducted online from a representative sample of the French public aged 18 and over, the day after the first death of a French person was reported, on February 26.

Government advice

The French government has issued advice on how to reduce the spread of the virus (above).

Anyone returning from China or an area where the virus is “actively circulating” should:

  • Monitor your temperature twice a day
  • Wash your hands regularly and/or use a hand sanitiser gel
  • Wear a surgical mask when you are with relatives or outside the house
  • Reduce non-essential activities (cinema, restaurants, parties), and avoid places with at-risk individuals (maternity hospitals, hospitals, retirement homes…)
  • Work from home where possible, and avoid non-essential meetings with colleagues or spending time in zones such as lifts, canteens or meeting rooms
  • Children and young people with any symptoms should not go to creche, school, college or lycée
  • In case of fever, cough or breathing difficulties:

Contact the SAMU (French emergency services) immediately by dialling 15, and mention your travel history. Do not go to your GP or hospital.

For all non-medical questions, call the free number, 24/7: 0800 130 000 (in French)

Further details are online at: www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus

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