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France shuts schools as coronavirus spreads, hopes to avoid becoming the next Italy

This photograph taken on March 12, 2020, shows a screen broadcasting the declaration of France’s President Emmanuel Macron, made from The Elysee Palace in Paris, about the situation of the COVID-19 outbreak.


French President Emmanuel Macron has asked global leaders to act together to combat the coronavirus, as the country strives to contain its outbreak.

France has 2,284 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — the second highest in Europe, after Italy, where more than 12,000 people have been infected. However, health officials have warned that France could face a surge in cases similar to what has been experienced in Italy, where the country remains in national lockdown.

“We are only at the beginning of the epidemic. Everywhere in Europe it is accelerating,” Macron said in a televised address Thursday. 

France is closing all schools and universities from Monday and stepping up funding to help businesses, “whatever the cost,” Macron said.

France could be about to experience a similar number of cases as Italy, a scientist told CNBC Friday. 

“It is fair to assume that what’s happening in Italy is going to be reproduced in France, Germany and the U.K. over the next weeks,” Nicolas Locker, virologist at the University of Surrey, said over the phone.

He warned that the trend would be the same in each country.

During his speech, Macron called upon world leaders to join forces to contain the virus. “Being divided won’t allow us to respond to what’s a global crisis,” he said.

The French leader is due to speak with U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday. The call comes after the White House announced a 30-day travel ban from France and 25 other European countries.

European Union officials have criticized Trump’s “unilateral” decision. European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde told CNBC Thursday that diseases are not “aware of borders,” suggesting that the virus will spread further, despite Trump’s travel ban.

Schools, bars and restaurant closures

Governments across Europe have taken new preventive measures against the virus’s spread. In Belgium, all schools will be suspended from Monday; shops will have to close on the weekends, except pharmacies and grocery shops; and elderly people are advised to stay home. All recreational activities are canceled and restaurants and bars will have to close as well.

In Germany, the states of Bavaria and Saarland will close schools, kindergartens and nurseries from Monday. Other regional governments are deciding Friday whether to do the same.

However, in the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson stopped short from announcing stricter measures. Speaking Thursday, he said there was no need to close schools at the moment.

Johnson added that schools had been advised to cancel trips abroad and elderly people should not go on cruises. Furthermore, anyone with a “new” and “continuous” cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days.

However, virologist Locker said it would have been “reasonable” for the U.K. government to take the same measures as other EU countries to prevent the virus from infecting people.