Coronavirus: France orders 15-day lockdown, bans public gatherings

There are widespread concerns that polling stations are ideal venues for spreading germs. AFP  Sebastien Bozon  Files

There are widespread concerns that polling stations are ideal venues for spreading germs. AFP Sebastien Bozon Files

"Any violation of these rules will be penalized, " Macron said during his address.

European governments have committed more than $1 trillion in state loans, credit guarantees, tax deferrals and other measures to shield businesses from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

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

People without valid reasons will be subject fines ranging from 38-135 euros ($43-$151), the minister said. He said the tougher measures in France, which has seen more than 6,600 cornavirus infections and almost 150 deaths in recent weeks, was unprecedented in peacetime, declaring, "We are in a health war".

A force of 100,000 police and gendarmerie have been dispersed throughout Paris on Tuesday as well to enforce the lockdown.

Under the lockdown, citizens will need to fill out a form provided by the government, stating their goal for leaving their homes.

The French president said the EU's external borders will be shut for 30 days, but French nationals will be allowed home.

France reported 5,400 cases of COVID-19 and 127 coronavirus-related deaths as of Monday. The virus has infected more than 50,000 people across Europe and caused 2,000 deaths.

'Saturday night live' halts production amid coronavirus
It's unclear if the show will return since there were only six episodes left this season, the show's 45th on air. They caution against all global travel.

Macron expressed his disappointment in that people ignored warnings.

"There was something shocking about it", he told The Times.

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi and American drugmaker Regeneron also said they had started clinical trials for a new drug, Kevzara, an immuno-suppressor.

He added it was "shocking" that people ignored "the advice coming from the highest levels of government". Prior to this, France had announced the closure of bars and restaurants, a measure many US cities have taken amid the global health crisis. "In usual times, this would make me happy because this is the France we all love".

Mr Macron said in televised remarks that the government made a decision to order the restrictions because people haven't complied with earlier public health measures and "we are at war".

European leaders also plan to ban all non-essential travel into the continent on Tuesday in a bid to stem a pandemic that has upended society, battered markets and killed thousands around the world.

Transport workers also could receive exemptions to ensure supplies of "essential items such as medicine, but also food and components that our factories need", she said.

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