French Senate approves state of health emergency as virus cases pass 10,000

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French senators have approved a bill giving the government special powers to fight the worsening coronavirus outbreak as the death toll rose to 372 on Thursday.

The text, which will be examined by the National Assembly on Friday, allows the government to restrict people’s freedom of movement and rule by decree to requisition certains goods and services, over a period of two months.

The bill also empowers the government to take special measures in support of French companies hard-hit by the virus outbreak.

It was passed overnight by an overwhelming majority of senators, who were meeting in reduced format in line with health guidelines.

However, numerous left-wing senators abstained in protest at the duration of the state of emergency, which they considered too long.

The opposition senators also objected to giving companies the power to force employees to take part of their annual holiday leave during the crisis.

France crossed the threshold of 10,000 coronavirus cases on Thursday, the third day of a nationwide lockdown, with health authorities revealing 108 new deaths in just 24 hours – a 20 percent increase on the previous day. 

During a press conference, health agency director Jérôme Salomon added that the number of cases had risen to 10,995, up from 9,134 on Wednesday. Salomon said 1,122 people were in a serious condition, needing life support.

The French government has come under intense pressure from overstretched health professionals over a shortage of face masks, gloves and other basic equipment.

It is estimated France has around 5,000 beds equipped with the necessary gear but these are unevenly spread around the country.


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