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Coronavirus Raises Alarms for Cannes as French Government Extends Gatherings Ban to May 31

Cannes Film Festival Placeholder
Courtesy of FIF/Cannes Film Festival

In an effort to contain France’s coronavirus outbreak, the country’s health minister extended on Thursday the ban for gatherings of more than 5,000 people in confined spaces to May 31, raising concerns about the next edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

France’s ban on large indoor gatherings was first issued on Feb. 29, but has now been amended. The minister’s announcement also said that the representative of the French State in each region is entitled to “forbid or restrict, including through individual measures, other (smaller) gatherings.”

The extension of the ban to May 31 casts a shadow over the Cannes Film Festival, which is due to take place May 12-23, and even more so for the Cannes film market, which is partly held in a confined space — the Palais — and last year gathered 12,527 participants.

A spokesperson for the Cannes festival told Variety that neither the festival nor the film market will be impacted by this ban since neither event gather more than 5,000 people at the same time in one location.

The coronavirus outbreak in France has already caused the cancellation of MipTV, the international TV showcase set in Cannes in late March/early April, while Canneseries, the annual drama festival run in partnership with Reed Midem, has been postponed to run alongside Mipcom in October.

The fate of Series Mania, the festival dedicated to drama series held in Lille and scheduled for the end of March, is also in limbo.

On Thursday afternoon, the event issued a letter to delegates, asking them to re-confirm their attendance and acknowledging the French government’s latest decree. “The number of participants expected at Lille Grand Palais (3000 participants) allows us to maintain our activities,” said organizers.

Along with Italy and Germany, France has been one of Europe’s most affected countries with 285 people who have tested positive for coronavirus and four people who have died from it.

Out of the country’s 2,000 theaters, about 40 have been shuttered in the regions of Oise and the Morbihan, which have been hardest hit by the virus.