French President Emmanuel Macron Calls For the Shutdown of Schools, Universities

Paris, France
Photo by Best Shot Factory/REX/Shutterstock

French president Emmanuel Macron announced in a televised speech on Thursday the shutdown of schools, universities and colleges across the country starting on March 16 for an undetermined amount of time.

Macron also called coronavirus the “biggest health crisis that France has known in a century.” While Macron did not use the word “quarantine” in his speech, he also asked that individuals limit traveling and to work from home as much as possible. Those over 70 were also advised to stay home.

The president said, however, that the municipal elections set for this weekend should be maintained and did not address the current ban on gatherings for more than 1,000 people, which is valid until April 15. It seems likely, particularly in light of the school shutdown, that the ban will tighten up and extend beyond mid-April.

The prospects for the Cannes Film Festival, which is still set to kick off on May 12, are getting thin. A few hours before Macron unveiled the drastic measures, Thierry Fremaux, the director of the Cannes Film Festival told the local newspaper Le Monde that he’s continuing to prepare the festival with the hope that the pandemic will be receding by mid-May. “We have a tradition of saying that the Cannes Film Festival is the first sign of summertime. To remain optimistic and keep our fighting spirit, let’s say that this year Cannes will be the first world event where we’ll rejoice life again,” said Fremaux.

Popular on Variety

A flurry of high-profile events have already been canceled in France, including the international TV showcase Miptv and Series Mania, the TV drama festival in Lille, both of which were due to take place at the end of the month.

Earlier today, the National Film Board announced measures aimed at helping exhibitors and distributors ride out the coronavirus crisis. The org said exhibitors will have the option of keeping theaters open within half of their seating capacities, even in regions that are hardest hit by coronavirus.

In terms of the coronavirus outbreak, France is Europe’s second hardest-hit country behind Italy, which has already been quarantined by its government for several days. The country has nearly 3,000 Coronavirus cases and 61 deaths as of March 12.