France bans gatherings of 1,000 over virus, two more MPs infected

PARIS (AFP) – France has banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people to try and slow the spread of COVID-19, the health minister said, while the number of French lawmakers infected with the virus rose to four.

Oliver Veran confirmed the beefed-up measures on Sunday but said officials would issue a list of events considered “useful to national life” that would be allowed to continue – such as demonstrations.

With more than 1,100 recorded cases and 19 deaths so far, France is the second worst affected European country after its neighbour Italy, which has imposed a sweeping lockdown on the most hard-hit northern regions.

Germany also encouraged the cancellation of events with more than 1,000 participants, as countries scrambled to contain the disease that first emerged in China in December.

Two more French MPs tested positive for the new coronavirus, the Parisian regional health authority said, without revealing their identity.

This brings the number of infected lawmakers to four, while two other employees at the French Parliament have also caught the disease. The French government had already banned gatherings in confined venues of more than 5,000 people – a measure that had been set to continue until April 15. Veran did not specify the terms of the latest, stricter ban.