French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said that the coronavirus epidemic was France's worst health crisis in a century and announced that schools throughout the country would close from next week.
Creches, schools and also universities would close from Monday "until further notice", Macron said in an address to the nation on the fight against the coronavirus. He also urged all people older than 70, those who suffer chronic diseases, respiratory troubles and the handicapped, "to stay at home" if possible.
But the president also said that nationwide local elections scheduled for Sunday will not be postponed.
"We are just at the beginning of this crisis," Macron said.
"In spite of all our efforts to break it, this virus is continuing to propagate and to accelerate."
As for the elections, Macron said he had consulted scientists and other experts who were of the opinion that "there is nothing to prevent the French, even the most vulnerable, from going to the ballot box."
The French president said Europe will have to react "fast, and strongly" to "relaunch" the economy in the wake of the epidemic, adding that any steps to close borders will have to be jointly decided "at the European level".
He said the measures against the virus were needed so that "we continue to win time against this epidemic" which he emphasised "has no passport".