France is set to go on lockdown with all non-essential public locations to close tonight as the coronavirus death toll in the country soars to 91.
Restaurants, shops, cinemas, nightclubs and cafés will shut for the foreseeable future with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe calling the virus the ‘biggest health crisis in a century’.
Mr Philippe also called on French people to reduce their travel, especially between towns.
In a solemn TV address on Saturday evening, Mr Philippe said the indefinite shut down would apply to ‘all places that receive the public but which are not essential to the life of the country.’
France reported a sharp rise in cases on Saturday, from 3,661 to 4,499. It also recorded 12 more deaths, bringing the toll to 91.
Public transport will remain open but Mr Philippe encouraged his citizens to limit their use.
Exceptions on France’s ban include supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and petrol stations.
Mr Philippe added that his citizens will have to make tough sacrifices in the coming months to help stop the spread of the killer virus – which could cost the economy billions.
However, he said local elections on Sunday would go ahead.
Jerome Salomon, the head of the French public health authority, said there had been a rapid increase in serious cases, including 300 people in intensive care, half of whom were below 60 years of age.
‘I am conscious of the efforts and sacrifices that we are asking, but I have faith that the French people will have the capacity to overcome this serious moment,’ Philippe said.
Philippe said the government had been left with no choice but to take the decision because too many people were still out in the streets and not sufficiently applying measures that were recently announced.
That, he said, was helping accelerate the spread of the virus.
‘I have decided to close all non-indispensable locations. We must absolutely limit our movements,’ he said.
The ban is also likely to include ski hire shops, and other businesses linked to the country’s Alpine resorts, many of which are likely now to shut down too.
It follows President Emmanuel Macron appearing on national television on Thursday and saying the ‘national crisis’ meant all schools, colleges and universities will close from Monday.
‘Despite our efforts, the virus is accelerating,’ Mr Macron said. ‘It will hit the most vulnerable people first and we are taking great efforts to increase massively the capacity in our hospitals.
‘We have to prepare for the second wave, which will hit younger people. We have to prepare our emergency staff. We need to win time, but the priority is to protect the most vulnerable.
‘For our collective interest, from Monday and until further notice, nurseries, schools, colleges, high schools and universities will be closed.
‘Closed for a simple reason: our children and our youngest, according to scientists, are the ones who seem to spread the virus the fastest.’
Religious buildings would remain open but gatherings and ceremonies should be postponed