PARIS – France will shut shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities from Sunday with its 67 million people told to stay home to help fight the rapid acceleration of the coronavirus in a country where the number of cases has doubled in 72 hours.
The government had no other option, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told a news conference after the public health authority said 91 people had died in France and almost 4,500 were now infected.
“I have decided to close all non-essential locations, notably cafes, restaurants, cinemas, nightclubs and shops,” he said. “We must absolutely limit our movements.”
Exceptions to the shop ban will include food stores, pharmacies, petrol stations and tobacconists.
However, Philippe said Sunday’s local elections would go ahead under strict sanitary conditions. This confirmed a decision to press ahead with them by President Emmanuel Macron, who had already announced the closure of schools from Monday and advised people over the age of 70 to stay indoors.
“We didn’t expect it to be so quick,” said Jason Holt, 28, manager at the Cafe Montparnasse. “We’re a little shocked because we’re going to find ourselves without work.”
Philippe said the government had been left with no choice because too many people were still out in the streets and not sufficiently applying recently announced measures, including keeping a safe distance from each other.
That, he said, was helping accelerate the spread of the virus.
Highlighting just that, many bars were still packed after Philippe’s announcement and some reported a surge in attendance after the closure order became public, as revelers turned out for a last drink despite recommendations to avoid crowds.