Europe

France to extend coronavirus emergency for two months

Health minister says emergency will be in place until July 24 and travellers to France will face two-week quarantine.

France will extend a health emergency imposed to fight the new coronavirus pandemic for another two months until July 24, Minister of Health Olivier Veran has said.

A draft law says a lifting this month of the emergency, which began on March 24, would be premature and carry the risk of an intensifying outbreak. 

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“We are going to have to perform a long-distance run,” Veran said on Saturday, adding he was aware that the French people had already been asked for “colossal efforts” in the fight against the virus.

The bill will go before the Senate on Monday and the National Assembly most probably the day after, said government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye. It is expected to become law by the end of the week.

The new emergency bill also lays out the quarantine conditions for people coming to France from abroad.

Veran said travellers to France, including French citizens returning home, will face a compulsory two-week quarantine and possible isolation when they arrive in the country.

“This quarantine will be imposed on any person returning on French soil,” Veran told a news briefing after the weekly cabinet meeting.

He said the duration and conditions of quarantine for asymptomatic people and isolation for those showing symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, would be defined in a decree to be published.

Decisions to isolate people would be scrutinised by judges to ensure they are justified and fair, he added.

It was not immediately clear whether the quarantine would only apply to people arriving from outside Europe’s open-border Schengen area, whether they would need to self-isolate at home or in hotels, and for how long the measures would be in place.

France is one of the European countries most affected by the virus and has reported 24,594 deaths from 167,346 confirmed cases.

The government has announced the gradual lifting of some lockdown measures from May 11, including the reopening of primary schools.

Many shops will also reopen and remote-working staff will be able to return to offices as France battles the economic effect of the coronavirus that has already pushed the country into recession.

In the latest example of the losses involved, the chairman of the national rail operator SNCF said on Saturday his company had already lost two billion euros ($2.2bn) in the crisis, and would probably apply for state aid and cut staff numbers.

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