France expected to reach stage 3 of Covid-19 epidemic

France will probably reach stage 3, which is the last stage, of the Covid-19 epidemic in the next few days, the government has announced.

5 March 2020

Epidemic risk

It is “unfortunately unlikely” that France will escape reaching stage 3 of 3 of the virus, meaning a full-blown epidemic, said government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye.

In his daily press conference update, director general for health Jérôme Salomon this week said: "An epidemic is characterised by sustained infection across the entire country."

Reaching stage 3 will mean that restrictions can be imposed on transport, hospitals, businesses, and cultural and sporting events. Schools can also be closed.

The precautions are based on an epidemic plan set out in 2009, during the H1N1 'flu virus crisis. More information on the extent of the possible restrictions is reported here.

Government meeting                                    

President Emmanuel Macron is set to welcome public and private researchers working to fight the virus at the Elysée later today. 

The meeting will aim to “[encourage] cooperation between all individuals [and] to ensure the flow of relations between them, so that solutions can be brought in the shortest time possible”.

Hand sanitiser

As the virus continues to spread, the government has proposed that hand sanitiser gel should not be sold for more than €3 per 100ml, after prices rose due to increased demand.

Junior economy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told public news service FranceInfo: “We have suggested: up to €2 for 50ml and €3 for 100ml. This proposal will be validated by professionals, because we do not want to ask them to produce this at a loss. We will check that our hypotheses are correct.”


Transport in France appears to be largely unaffected by the virus, although traffic had already been slow after the months of strikes.

CEO of train company SNCF Jean-Pierre Farandou said: “We cannot say that people are taking the train less. It’s certain that this epidemic climate does not help movement…[but] we must wait a little longer to be able to measure the eventual effects of this epidemic on our traffic.”


The French government is continuing to remind people of how to protect themselves and others.

Advice includes:

  • Wash hands regularly or use hand sanitiser gel
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow (and not into your hands)
  • Use disposable tissues and dispose of them immediately after use
  • Stay at home and wear a medical mask if you are ill yourself. Do not go to your local GP or to the hospital to avoid infecting other people. Call 15, Samu emergency number, to explain your symptoms.

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