France on Monday took the drastic step of ordering a 15-day lockdown for the entire country, barring residents from leaving their homes for anything other than essential duties as the country scrambles to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Starting at noon on Tuesday, residents will be allowed out of their homes only for necessary trips, and no family or social gatherings will be allowed. Those who flout the rules will face punishment.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced the order in a televised speech, saying that “our movements will be severely reduced” while urging residents to “keep calm.”
“Across the French territory, only necessary outings like buying groceries, while respecting guidelines,” Macron said. “Necessary outings to seek medical care, necessary outings to go to work when working remotely is not possible and necessary outings to do a little bit of physical activity but without meeting up with friends or family.”
“All infractions will be punished,” Macron added. “There will be checks and controls in place.”
France’s second round of municipal elections will also be canceled because of the lockdown order.
“We are in a health war,” the French president said. “I’m appealing to your sense of responsibility and solidarity.”
Macron also announced several measures aimed at insulating businesses against failing amid the economic damage the virus is causing globally, guaranteeing bank loans up to $300 billion. France will also cover the expenses of taxis and hotels for health care workers as well as provide daycare for their children. Companies who are able to have employees work from home are required to do so.
“No company, of any size, will be allowed to go bankrupt,” Macron vowed.
“The situation is deteriorating very quickly, the number of cases is doubling every three days,” said French Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon on Monday. “A lot of people did not understand that they must stay home, this low rate of respecting the guidelines is preventing us from curbing the epidemic.”
France’s move comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that he will close Canada’s borders to foreigners over concerns about the pandemic with the exception “for the moment” of U.S. citizens. Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire, tested positive for the virus last week.
“It is time to take every precaution to keep people safe,” Trudeau said.