Covid-19 in France: Events cancelled and schools shut

High-profile events have been cancelled, some schools have closed, and all school trips abroad have been suspended in France in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 epidemic.

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The decisions come after health minister Olivier Véran said the country had reached the “second stage of three” in the development of the epidemic. Overall, 130 cases have been confirmed in the country so far.

Meetings in the Oise department - one of the major epicentres of the virus in France - have been banned, as have any “gatherings of more than 5,000 people in a confined space”.


Book festival le Salon Livre Paris is the latest high-profile event to be cancelled.

The event was set to take place from March 20-23 at the Porte de Versailles, but organisers announced on Sunday March 1 that it would be cancelled due to risk of coronavirus spread.

Salon President Vincent Montagne said: “Following the government’s decision to ban meetings of more than 5,000 people in confined spaces, we have taken - with regret - the decision to cancel the 2020 event.”

Meetings of more than 5,000 people always have to be reported at the department prefecture which is the one to decide to ban an event or not, according to the risks. If the event is in a confined space, it will be automatically cancelled. If it is outside it can be cancelled if the prefecture estimates that there is a risk of gathering populations from areas where the virus is circulating. Events of less than 5,000 can also be cancelled directly by the organisers as a precaution measure.

In the Oise, mayor of Crépy-en-Valois - the town in which the 60-year-old man, who was the first French person to die of the virus, was a teacher - said he had tested positive.

Bruno Fortier said: “My test is positive and I am a carrier of this ‘filth’. I am now establishing a list of people that I have met over the past 14 days. I think that many cases will appear in the next few days. I am not in hospital as I am not ‘ill’ - no fever...I am just a carrier of this damn virus.”

School closures and school trips

Schools remain closed in nine communes across the Oise, while the minister for national education announced that all school trips abroad would be suspended for all schools, until further notice.

Some pre-schools, schools, collèges and lycées and in the Morbihan (Brittany) also remain closed, after several “potentially linked” cases were identified. The areas most affected are Crac'h, Carnac and Auray, with almost no establishments open in these areas today.

Across France in general, school trips in progress must be curtailed and all travellers must return home. School trips in progress within the country may continue, but in doing so must ensure that “no travel or layover in the ‘cluster zones’ in France is planned during the trip”.

In said “cluster zones” - the Oise and Haute-Savoie, major centres of the virus in France - all school trips, even those in France, have been suspended.

Yet, as the epidemic is now at “stage 2” - meaning the virus is now established in France - certain measures that were designed to stop the virus from entering the country have been lifted.

All quarantines on students who have returned from holidays abroad have been lifted - except anyone travelling from the Chinese province of Hubei, where the virus originated, and anyone in the French cluster zones.

Minister for national education Jean-Michel Blanquer said: “Pupils and staff who stayed away from school because they had returned from northern Italy, as well as China (except Hubei), Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Iran...may now go back to their school establishment.”

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