France, where more than 1,000 positive cases of coronavirus have been detected, would put a temporary ban on public gatherings of more than 1,000 people to contain the outbreak, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced on Sunday.
All the events expected to draw 1,000 people are now banned across France except those considered “useful for national life”, Veran said after a meeting at the Elysee Palace on the disease.
The French government had previously banned all gatherings of 5,000 people in confined spaces as well as certain events in an open environment across the country.
In another measure to help contain the virus, Veran pledged to “simplify patient access to teleconsultation” by signing on Monday a decree facilitating the use of telemedicine.
The minister reiterated the necessity to respect barrier gestures, including frequent hand washing, use of single-use tissues, to cough or sneeze into the elbow and avoid handshakes and hugs.
He also recommended to limit visits to elderly people, who are most vulnerable to a coronavirus infection.
“We have a logic for all the measures that we have taken and which include slowing down the entry of the virus into the territories where it is absent, and curbing it” where it is spreading, Veran said.
“France has anticipated and adapted its responses by taking progressive measures adapted to each territory to guarantee a proportionate response to this crisis,” he added.
Local authorities of heavily affected regions, notably northern department of L’Oise and Haut-Rhin in eastern France, have ordered the closure of all educational institutions for 15 days starting from next Monday, in addition to public gatherings including markets and Sunday Mass to limit the virus spread.
According to Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, 155,000 students are involved in l’Oise and 127,000 in Haut-Rhin, all of whom will be able to follow “class at home”.
In Corsica, the French Mediterranean island, the authorities ordered the closure of all the schools and banned the gatherings of more than 50 people in Ajaccio where 23 people tested positive for the COVID-19.
The country, the first in Europe to diagnose people with the disease, remains at stage 2 of its epidemic plan, which means “our priority is to do everything to slow the spread of the virus,” according to the minister.
Early Sunday, the Heath Ministry confirmed that the novel coronavirus claimed 19 fatalities, a rise of 3 in one day, while infection cases climbed to 1,126, up by 177.