Ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people

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Health Minister Olivier Veran at a press briefing at the Élysée presidential palace. REUTERS - PASCAL ROSSIGNOL

The government has banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Following an emergency meeting led by President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée presidential palace, Health Minister Olivier Véran said the country’s coronavirus alert level remained at Stage 2, with the government focused on protecting citizens while responding with proportionate measures.

These included a ban on public gatherings of more 1,000 people. Protests, exams and public transportation could be exempt from the ban on large gatherings, because they are “useful to the life of the country”, said Véran. “Prefects and ministries will come up with lists of events considered useful,” he added.

Véran also suggested that nationwide municipal elections, set for March 15, would carry on as scheduled.

Reporting from the Élysée palace after the emergency meeting, FRANCE 24’s Luke Shrago noted that authorities had issued “a message of reassurance” for the French people. “This is not a matter of trying to put people in quarantine, it’s really a matter of scientifically, when necessary, putting measures into place, a matter of proportionality, to keep life going while doing their best to limit the spread of COVID-19,” explained Shrago.

Véran also announced new measures to make telemedicine more flexible and available to the public by enabling patients to connect online or via video-link to doctors.

The new measure will have major consequences for sporting and entertainment events, with cancellations including a book fair and a tattoo salon.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Ligue 1 game at Strasbourg on Saturday was postponed, as well as the women’s Six Nations rugby showdown between Scotland and France.

“This evening we are still in the second stage, meaning that our priority is to do everything to slow the spread of the virus in our national territory,” said Véran.

Source: FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP