France Announces Lockdown to Tackle Coronavirus


French President Emmanuel Macron’s orders came as France’s national health agency declared 21 more coronavirus deaths and 1,210 new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 148.

France President Emmanuel Macron on Monday ordered people to stay at home to avoid increasing the new coronavirus, saying only necessary visits would be allowed and violators would be punished.

Macron’s orders came as France’s National Health Agency announced 21 more coronavirus deaths and 1,210 new cases of infection in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number to 148.

In the 20-minute approach to the nation, he said the French had to “critically restrict movements for the next 15 days at least” and limit social contacts as much as possible.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner later said anyone outside would have to give proof of their reasons for traveling, and 100,000 law enforcement officers would implement the measures. Anyone who does not follow imprisonment, added Castaner, will be punished 135 € ($ 150).

Macron said under the new regime gatherings among friends and family would no longer be allowed, only “necessary movements” like shopping, medical visits or working when telecommuting was not possible.

Besides, he said, the European Union would close all external borders for 30 days from Tuesday to curb the outbreak, though citizens of EU countries could return.

And on the domestic front, the second round of municipal elections set for this weekend has been postponed to June 21 after the first round of voting Sunday was marred by record no-shows.

Given the urgency of the crisis, Macron also said he would ask parliament on Thursday to approve a law granting his cabinet the power to govern by decree, “only in areas required to manage this crisis”.

France had already announced new measures to close bars, restaurants, and theaters, which came after schools were close and large ceremonies were banned. Macron said new measures needed to exclude people after defying the warning over the weekend.

“Even when the doctors were warning about the seriousness of the situation, we noticed that people got together in parks, busy markets, and restaurants and bars,” Macron said. “As if life had not changed,” he said, warning such behavior put the lives of others at risk.

With concern growing over the economy, Macron also vowed that “no company would be abandoned to the risk of bankruptcy” because of the draconian measures that have seen businesses shut and factories forced to idle factories.

“Those facing problems will not have to pay any money, not for taxes or social charges,” Macron said. He also indicated that rents and utility bills could be suspended for small and medium-sized companies in distress.

France will also ensure that all bank loans to companies are back by a state guarantee totaling 300 billion euros ($340 billion), he said.

He also suspended the application of his signature reform of the country’s pension system, which had prompted France’s longest transport strike in decades over the Christmas holidays.

“Because we are at war, the complete focus of the government and parliament must be on fighting this disease,” he said. “That is why I have determined that all reforms underway will be suspended, starting with the pensions overhaul.”

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