Coronavirus: France restricts large gatherings, as schools shut

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France announced Friday it was limiting gatherings to no more than 100 people in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

This comes after the country on Thursday shut all schools until further notice, in what was its most drastic action to limit the spread of the disease.

"The idea is that we can slow the progression and the circulation of the virus," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told TF1 television, adding the limit would come into force immediately and nationwide.

France previously limited gatherings to 1 000 people, and the tightened measures could squeeze venues even further.

"100 people - that means that there will inevitably be signficant consequences for the theatres and the cinemas," the premier added.

Educational establishments in France will be shut for the next two weeks "at least", a minister said earlier on Friday, describing the move as part of a nationwide "applying of the brakes" to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Stringent measures

In an address to the nation late Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron announced a range of stringent measures to slow the spread of the virus, including closing creches, schools and universities from next Monday.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told France Inter radio station that the school closures would last until at least the two-week-long Easter holidays - which begin on 4 April in Paris - but final exams were still scheduled to go ahead in June.

The coronavirus has killed 61 people in France and infected 2 876, according to figures released by the health ministry late on Thursday.

Macron urged people aged over 70 to stay at home and announced measures to keep the economy afloat during the crisis, including compensating workers who are temporarily laid off for its duration.

Meanwhile, France is allowing nationwide local elections to go ahead on Sunday, followed by a second round of voting on March 22. 

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