President Emmanuel Marcon tonight ordered a full lockdown in France, telling the public to stay at home and said Schengen borders will be shut from midday tomorrow.
In a solemn live TV address on Monday evening, the head of state said that people would have to stay at home unless shopping for food or going to a pharmacy, heading for absolutely essential work, or exercising alone.
The police and army will strictly enforce the new restrictions, with so-far unspecified ‘punishments’ for those who break them.
Hotels and other private businesses will meanwhile be requisitioned by the state in order to help treat sufferers of the lethal virus.
Borders with other European countries will also be closed, although French nationals will be allowed to ‘return home’.
The measures will start at 12 midday on Tuesday, and go on for ‘at least two weeks’, said Mr Macron.
Mr Macron said: ‘Walking, meeting friends in the park or in the street will no longer be possible. It is a question of limiting as much as possible all contact beyond the home. All over French territory, in mainland France as well as overseas, only necessary journeys must remain necessary.’
Admitting that the economic cost would be enormous, Mr Macron said: ‘All businesses must organise to facilitate remote work. And when that is not possible, they will have to adapt their organization to enforce these new measures.’
Government grants will be made available to those facing bankruptcy, while tax demands will be frozen.
There are currently 5400 people infected by Coronavirus in France, while 127 are dead and 400 in intensive care in hospitals which are struggling to cope.
Despite measures brought in over the weekend including a ban on crowds of more than 100, and the closure of non-essential shops, people were still breaking the new rules.
Mr Macron said: ‘We are at war and the Nation will support its children who, there, medical staff in town, at the hospital, are on the front line in a fight that will ask them for determination, solidarity.
‘They have rights over us. We obviously owe them the means, the protection. We will be there. We owe them masks, gel, all the necessary equipment, and we will make sure of it.
‘We also owe caregivers custody of their children. A minimum daycare service has been in place since that day in nurseries and schools. We also owe them serenity, movement and rest. ‘This is why I decided that from taxis and hotels can be mobilized for their benefit. The state will pay.