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Coronavirus: France to close all schools, colleges and universities
12 March 2020, 19:22
France will close all schools, colleges and universities, President Emmanuel Macron has announced.
Speaking in a televised address on Thursday evening, Macron said the measures would be implemented from Monday following a spike in confirmed cases of the deadly virus.
"It is one of the most serious health crises France has ever faced," he said.
There have been more than 2,200 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in France, making it the seventh worst-affected country in the world.
The majority of cases remain active, with the death toll of 61 likely to rise over the coming days.
Mr Macron called on people over the age of 70 and those most vulnerable to avoid contact with other people as much as possible.
He said the French local elections will go ahead - being held over the next two weekends.
This comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britain would not close schools, on Thursday afternoon, while Ireland announced they will closing their schools.
Referring specifically to school closures, the Mr Johnson said: "The scientific advice is that this could do more harm than good at this time but of course we are keeping this under review."
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty later expanded on the this decision which he said was due to research indicating that children are less affected by the virus.
But, the prime minister added: "Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time" as the UK battles with "the worst public health crisis of a generation."
He then rejected any comparisons made between COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, saying the former was "more dangerous" due to a lack of immunity.
The measures are likely to expand in the next few weeks, Mr Johnson added, which could include isolating entire households should one person exhibit symptoms.
It could also include social distancing from the vulnerable population and the elderly - the group who are most at risk from the virus.
He said: "I want to signal now that this is coming down the track."
The delay strategy seeks to slow down transmission of COVID-19 between people in order to reduce the amount of pressure already being placed on the NHS, and to buy more time to find a vaccination.
Delaying the virus spread could also push the peak of cases into summer months, when viruses are often less contagious and the NHS is under less pressure.
The UK has so far recorded 590 cases of the virus with ten deaths, however the number of cases not yet identified is expected to be much higher.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, said the UK could have between 5,000 and 10,000 infected at this current time.
He said this estimation was based on the calculation of the disease trajectory that showed the UK is four weeks behind Italy and other countries in Europe.
"This is still a relatively small number," he added.
Globally, more than 127,000 people have tested positive, while more than 4,700 people have lost their lives.
The majority of cases and deaths have been recorded in China, with Italy and Iran being the second and third worst-hit countries respectively.