Macron on virus: ‘We’re just at beginning of this epidemic’

Macron on virus: ‘We’re just at beginning of this epidemic’

French President Emanuel Macron attends the inauguration ceremony of the new Cafe Joyeux coffee shop on the Champs Elysees avenue on the eve of its public opening in Paris. AFP

Paris, March 10

French President Emmanuel Macron warned on Tuesday that France was “just at the beginning” of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 25 people in the country and infected more than 1,400.

“We’re just at the beginning of this epidemic,” he said after a visit to the ambulance service in Paris, while urging the French not to panic and saying the authorities were “organised” in the face of the crisis.

France is the second-worst affected country by the virus in Europe after Italy, and Culture Minister Franck Riester and five MPs are among those who have tested positive for the infection.

Preventive measures have also been stepped up at the presidential palace, with Macron’s cabinet chief ordered to work from home after having been in contact with an infected person.

But with only a fraction of the 463 deaths reported by Italy, France has so far refrained from the draconian measures imposed by Italy, which is under nationwide lockdown.

Clusters of cases have been identified in half a dozen French regions, with schools closed in three—the northern Oise area, the northeastern Haut-Rhin area and the city of Ajaccio on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Gatherings of over 1,000 people have also been cancelled since the weekend, leading to several sporting events and concerts being called off.

Macron said France was taking a region-by-region approach to the outbreak.

“One must not expect that at a given moment, at a given hour in the country, there will be a big shift when everything changes,” he said, adding that the government would continue to adopt a “proportional” response to the epidemic. — AFP

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