French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered more stringent restrictions on people’s movement to try slow the spread of the coronavirus, saying the army would be called in to help move the sick to hospitals.
France had already shut down restaurants and bars, closed schools and put ski resorts off-limits, but Macron said measures unprecedented in peacetime were needed as the number of infected people doubled every three days and deaths spiraled higher.
In an emotional address to the Nation, the president asked that people should stay at home unless it was to buy groceries, travel to work, exercise or for medical care. Anyone flouting the ban would be punished.
“Stay at home,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said, adding that fines of up to 135 euros ($151) would be handed out to those who do not respect the new restrictions.
French has reported 148 deaths and more than 6,600 infections from the novel coronavirus. Both French and Spain are in toe behind Italy which is the hardest hit country in Europe.
Macron said the government would guarantee 300 billion euros ($335bn) worth of loans. Rent and utility bills owed by small companies would also be suspended to help them weather the economic storm, he added.
“No French company, whatever its size, will be exposed to the risk of collapse,” Macron assured.
The military will be enlisted to help transport the sick to hospital and local elections are suspended.