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HEALTH

Coronavirus LATEST: France’s elderly urged to stay home as Disneyland Paris closes gates

The coronavirus outbreak continued to have a huge impact on life in France on Friday as President Emmanuel Macron announced schools are to close and urged over-70s to remain in doors. Disneyland Paris also closed its gates.

Coronavirus LATEST: France's elderly urged to stay home as Disneyland Paris closes gates
French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the country on Thursday. Photo: AFP

 As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in France topped 2,870 on Thursday and the death toll reached 61, French President Emmanuel Macron announced new measures to contain the spread in the country. 

“I want to be very clear with you tonight,” Macron said during a televised speech on Thursday evening. “We are only at the beginning of the epidemic.” 

The president urged anyone aged over 70, disabled or in poor health to stay at home and limit social contact as much as possible. Starting Monday, all schools in the country will close their doors for an unspecified amount of time.

“The education sector has entered stage 3,” education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer confirmed on Friday morning.

Just 24 hours earlier Blanquer had said that the government “never envisaged” closing all of the country's schools, because it would be “counter-productive” to “paralyse a large part of the country.” 

While President had not said whether the country had entered stage 3 – a full-blown epidemic status – although he had previously said that France was very close to such a state.

 “We have anticipated, we are prepared and we have excellent staff,” Macron said as he visited a hospital earlier this week.

READ ALSO What to expect when France declares a coronavirus epidemic

On Friday, the popular tourist park Disneyland Paris announced that it would temporarily shut its gates, after three of its staff tested positive for the coronavirus this week. The decision came after the park had previously said it would remain open to visitors but with “temporary adjustments” to its cancellation policy for anyone wishing to cancel reservation at the Disney Hotel through April 15th.

The country also suspended all matches in its top football divisions. The country's professional rugby league also announced a suspension.

France is also included in the list of Schengen zone countries which the USA has banned flights from. Many aspects of the ban, announced by US president Donald Trump on Wednesday night, are still unclear but it seems that American citizens are not covered, nor are flights via the UK.

Health minister Olivier Véran said on Wednesday night that 105 people were in hospital in a serious condition.

French Health Director Jérôme Salomon has previously stressed that so far, 98 percent of people diagnosed with coronavirus in France make a full recovery.

France had already enacted restrictions on gatherings of more than 1,000 people and the 10 'cluster' zones where the majority of cases have been diagnosed have strict restrictions on any type of public gathering.

However the first round of the municipal elections will go ahead as planned on Sunday, President Macron confirmed on Thursday evening.

“There is nothing to suggest the French shouldn't go to the polls,” he said, refuting claims that the elections could not be held because people would abstain from voting out of fear of the virus.
 

Areas now considered 'cluster' zones are;  Mulhouse in the Haut-Rhin département in eastern France, Oise in the north east, Morbihan in Brittany, two areas in Haute-Savoie in the Alps, the entire island of Corsica,the Aude département in southern France, Calvados in Normandy and eastern Montpellier.

A tenth cluster was a tour group that had travelled to Egypt, with 13 people testing positive for the infection.

Schools in the Oise and Haut-Rhin département have been closed for a week, and the island of Corsica followed suit as well as 16 communes in the eastern part of Montpellier and the surrounding Hérault département.

Corsica, which did not initially record any cases, has now confirmed 51 cases and a cluster around the capital Ajaccio. On Thursday morning the prefect of Corsica announced that all gatherings of more than 50 people would be banned until April 15th.

MAP: Which regions of France are most affected by coronavirus?


President Emmanuel Macron visiting the Necker hospital in Paris on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

French authorities have been clear since the outbreak first began in Italy that a full epidemic in France is only a matter of time, and have concentrated their efforts on delaying the peak of the spread of the virus.

Macron on Tuesday expressed his gratitude to the “wonderful and courageous” medical services and asked that people continue to “show solidarity” to the most vulnerable in society by following health advice including washing hands and self isolating if necessary.

Five French MPs plus Culture Minister Franck Riester and two staff members at the parliament have also tested positive for coronavirus. The Assemblée Nationale is already on a scheduled break over the period of the municipal elections.

Riester has contracted the novel coronavirus and is staying in his Paris home but is “doing fine”, his office said Monday.

“The minister tested positive today,” after displaying symptoms, the ministry said.

READ ALSO Coronavirus in France – how worried should you be?

French health minister Olivier Véran. Photo: AFP

All gatherings of more than 1,000 have been banned, a step that will have a huge impact on cultural life in France with numerous concert halls and venues across the country having to postpone upcoming concerts.

Public transport is not covered by the ban, nor are demonstrations.

France had already passed a decree that anyone who is following government advice to self isolate, or whose children are unable to go to school because of coronavirus, is entitled to paid sick leave.

READ ALSO Should I cancel my trip to France because of coronavirus

President Emmanuel Macron had said people should “protect the most vulnerable” and stop visiting older people during the outbreak.

 

France has also banned visits to the country's retirement homes.

Concerts including performances at the Paris Opéra have been cancelled but Paris' largest tourist attractions including the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay remain open, albeit with limits in place on the number of visitors.

Macron has cancelled his normal schedule to deal with the outbreak (and not, the Elysée Palace rushed to reassure people, because he has coronavirus himself).

French ministers have warned against all non-essential travel – especially outside the EU – and advised people in France to stop shaking hands and doing la bise (greeting with a kiss on each cheek) in an attempt to control the infection.

READ ALSO: Bise blues – How the French are coping with the coronavirus kissing ban

A man wearing a protective mask shops in the market of Crepy-in-Valois before its evacuation following the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. Photo: AFP 

The government has requisitioned the country's stocks of masks to distribute to health professionals and people self isolating, in a bid to stop people panic buying and creating shortages for those who need them.

Health minister Véran has said “masks are indispensable” in hospitals, but “pointless” for anyone who is not themselves either a health worker or contaminated by the virus. 

Fears of catching the virus have sparked a run on masks as well as sanitising hand gel in France, leading some stores and online retailers to hike prices.

The price of hand sanitser was capped last week by government decree a €3 per 100ml.

READ ALSO The everyday precautions you can take to stay safe in France

French police officers evacuate the market of Crepy-in-Valois on March 1, 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. Photo: AFP

 

Member comments

  1. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Friday night that all schools, colleges and nurseries
    Why not churches?

  2. There is no panic in France from what I have seen. The French authorities have demonstrated good leadership when it comes to dealing with this outbreak and life is going on pretty much as normal here (we are on the Finistere, Morbihan border), especially when compared to the UK/Australia/USA.

  3. Chez Moi. Total lock down or at the very least reduce public gatherings to 100 or less curtail transport between countries to commercial freight only.

  4. Huh, boggy? France has no such down, yet the reported cases are VERY low compared to Italy. The only problem I see that is idiot in the white house. As usual.

  5. Chez Moi, Americans living in France and totality agree about the idiot living in the White House.

  6. More unnecessary panic!
    GET REAL!
    Someone, please, get that f——g cretin out of the white house.
    This latest travel ban is so HIM – CLUELESS!

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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