France to close schools to curb coronavirus spread: Macron

Reuters , Thursday 12 Mar 2020

Emmanuel Macron
This photograph taken on March 12, 2020, shows a screen broadcasting the declaration of France's President Emmanuel Macron, made from The Elysee Palace in Paris, about the situation of the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the France 24 channel studio in Issy-Les-Moulineaux, on the outskirts of the French capital. (Photo: AFP)

France will from next week close all creches, schools and universities to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised address.

Describing the outbreak as France's biggest public health crisis in a century, Macron also urged employers to let staff work from home, and said that the elderly and people with health conditions should stay indoors.

He said, however, that municipal elections scheduled for this weekend should go ahead.

He said that to ease the economic impact, the state would take over paying salaries of people forced to stop work, and that businesses would not have to pay taxes that fall due in March.

On the European level, he said the latest measures to support the economy unveiled by the European Central Bank were not sufficient, and that he would work with European partners on a major package to relaunch the economy "whatever it costs."

In a veiled reference to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to suspend some travel to the United States, Macron said nationalism was not the answer to the virus.

He said the disease has no nationality, and that if national frontiers had to be closed, it would only be when it was essential, and in coordination with the rest of Europe. 

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