After limiting gatherings to 100 people and closing down schools, daycares and universities, the French government has now decided to shut down all stores, restaurants, and movie theaters in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The new restrictions, announced by the prime minister Édouard Philippe on Saturday, will take effect at midnight for an indefinite amount of time. Stores of first necessities, such as pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, banks and newspaper stands, will remain open.
Jocelyn Bouyssy, the president of CGR Cinemas, France’s second biggest multiplex chains, said the government’s new measures came as a surprise. “We didn’t expect it all, we were told yesterday that we would be allowed to stay open with a cap of 100 admissions per auditorium,” said Bouyssy.
Philippe said on Saturday that the drastic new measures were decided after having consultations with doctors who are specialized in treating coronavirus and other epidemics. The prime minister also said that the number of coronavirus cases has increased dramatically in the country because previous restrictions were not taken seriously enough by French people. France has 4,500 cases of Coronavirus and 91 deaths as of Saturday.
The number of cases has doubled in the last 72 hours and half of the 300 patients in critical condition are under 60, according to Jerome Salomon, the general director of health. France is the most impacted country in Europe, along with Italy, Germany and Spain.
Earlier this week, Macron called coronavirus the “biggest health crisis that France has known in a century.” He called for the shutdown of schools, universities and colleges across the country starting on March 16 for an undetermined amount of time.
Macron also asked that individuals limit traveling to and from work as much as possible. Those over 70 were also advised to stay home.
Several high-profile events have already been scrapped in France, including the international TV showcase MipTV and Series Mania, the TV drama festival in Lille.
However, the Cannes Film Festival has not been axed. Organizers told Variety earlier — before Philippe unveiled new restrictions — that a decision on whether to maintain or cancel the fest will be taken around the middle of April. The official selection is due to be announced on April 16.