French President Emmanuel Macron has announced Europe’s borders will close at lunchtime today for 30 days.
“All trips between non-European countries and the EU and the Schengen zone will be suspended for 30 days,” he said in a televised address to the nation.
French people on holiday will be able to come back to France and those living abroad were told to contact embassies and consulates who will help them be repatriated.
Brussels had announced earlier on Monday it had proposed closing the EU’s borders to stop the spread of coronavirus but said a decision would not be made until the next day.
The UK’s Foreign Office said the UK is not included in the closure and told Britons in mainland Europe to continually monitor travel advice as it is changing rapidly.
Mr Macron also announced major support for businesses, including not having to pay taxes and bills, so “not a single French person will be left without resources.”
The second round of municipal elections will be suspended and any new reforms going through parliament will be halted from Wednesday, he said.
Mr Macron warned the French people that “movements will be very strongly reduced” for 15 days after chiding them for not complying with earlier measures drawn up to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Nationwide restrictions are being enforced on how far people can go from their homes, and for what purpose, with transport “heavily reduced” from lunchtime on Tuesday for at least two weeks, Mr Macron said.
He said people will no longer be able to have family get togethers and “meeting your friends in the park, the street will no longer be possible”.
In other coronavirus developments:
- Globally more than 169,000 have tested positive and over 7,000 have died
- The US bans gatherings of more than nine people
- Serbia postpones its 26 April elections
- Virgin Atlantic asks staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave as it parks up 85% of planes
- EasyJet to ground majority of its fleet on a rolling basis
- IAG, British Airway’s parent company, will cut flights by at least 75% in April and May
- British granddad died ‘after contracting virus from skier in restaurant’
- Italy records 368 more deaths from the coronavirus outbreak on Sunday, its biggest one day rise
- FTSE 100 fell by 8.7% on opening, settling to 7.2% with a loss of about £95bn on Monday
- A British man in Vietnam is seriously ill with COVID-19 and is on a ventilator
- The UK’s free TV licence for over-75s will end on 1 August instead of 1 June because of the outbreak
Mr Macron demanded all French companies made it possible for employees to work from home from tomorrow.
He said if anybody does not respect the staying at home rules “sanctions will be imposed”, but did not specify what they would be.
Going further than any other government to protect his country’s economy, the president said: “There’s not a single company, whatever its size, will go bankrupt, not a single French person will be left without resources.”
The state would provide 300 billion euros (£329bn) in loans to companies and is looking into waiving tax payments, he said.
For small companies, he said they will have nothing to pay from a fiscal point of view, with gas, electricity and rent payments to be suspended.
He said partial unemployment benefits will be increased and a solidarity fund will be created by the state, with a suggestion of support from the regions, for “entrepreneurs, artisans, craftsman”, Mr Macron added.
The president also announced widespread support for health professionals, with workers able to use taxis and hotels paid for by the state and their children to be looked after in creches and schools for free.
Masks and hand sanitisers will be provided to every health professional, with the first batch being sent out to pharmacies in the worst-hit regions on Tuesday then other areas on Wednesday.
An army hospital in the Alsace region will also be opened up for coronavirus patients who will be moved there from the most affected regions to relieve hospitals struggling to cope with the volumes.