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Covid-19: France bans groups of more than 1,000 people

Gatherings of more than 1,000 people are now banned in France, as measures against coronavirus Covid-19 become increasingly stringent.

Health minister Olivier Véran announced the measure at a press conference on Sunday night (March 8). The only exceptions are for protests and public transport.

Previously, only gatherings of more than 5,000 people in confined spaces were banned.

The measure has already received some criticism; theatre owner and show producer Jean-Marc Dumontet warned that the new rule would mean that several high-profile shows “would be cancelled”, and noted that theatre attendance was already down due to the virus.

He told public news source FranceInfo: “I understand that we have to be very careful, and be alert to an illness that we do not know well, for which there is no vaccination. [But] you are not going to get the virus just because you’ve attended a theatre.

“One person is not going to contaminate 500 people, otherwise we would all have it. This is a health crisis. It must not become an economic crisis [as well].”

The move comes as France passes the threshold of more than 1,000 confirmed cases (1,126 in total), and 19 deaths (as of the official count, released on Sunday at 15h); three more deaths and 177 more cases than the day before.

The official, updated figures can be seen on the Santé Publique France website.

France is still in stage two of three of the virus, Mr Véran said. He explained: “We are still, tonight, in stage two; our priority is to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus in the country.”

Mr Véran also said that he "wanted to protect health workers so they can continue to care for their patients in all situations", and that he would sign a decree to make it easier for patients to access online call consultations.

Each patient is recommended to go through their GP first, but if they are not available, it will now be possible to get an online consultation appointment without this, Mr Véran said.

Online GP consultations have significantly increased in popularity since the virus began to spread, figures show.


Businesses and schools affected

The virus has been hitting businesses harder as it continues to spread.

Today (Monday March 9), the Paris Stock Exchange was down 5.71% upon opening, while around 900 businesses that have been most affected have asked the government to allow them to enact partial unemployment measures for 15,000 workers.

This number has more than doubled in the past few days, said employment minister, Muriel Pénicaud.

Similarly, more than 300,000 pupils will not return to school this morning as schools remain closed in the most-affected areas. In the Haut-Rhin and the Oise - the most-affected two departments - all schools and crèches are set to stay closed for two weeks.

Government advice to stop the spread of the virus remains simple.

  • Wash hands regularly, or use hand sanitiser gel if you not able to use soap and water (e.g. when on public transport)
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow (and not into your hands)
  • Use disposable tissues and dispose of them properly 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, the Samu emergency number, to explain your symptoms.

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