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Macron to give televised address as France's coronavirus death toll climbs

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a videoconference at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France March 10, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a videoconference at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France March 10, 2020. © Michel Euler, Pool, Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to give a televised address to the nation at 20h French time (GMT+1) on Thursday, as the death toll climbed to 48 and amid speculation that the government will move its coronavirus response up a gear to Phase 3, the highest response level.

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Ahead of Macron’s address, France has already stepped up its response to the virus threat. On Wednesday, Health Minister Olivier Véran said the government had decided, for several weeks starting today, to ban visits to all the country's retirement homes, elderly people being the most exposed to the coronavirus.

The total number of confirmed cases rose to 2,281, with 48 deaths Véran said, an increase of 497 cases on the tally reported Tuesday at 1800 GMT, when the number of deaths had stood at 33. The minister also said 105 people were in a serious condition.

France is the second-worst-affected country in Europe after Italy – which has effectively gone into lockdown to stop the spread of the virus – and Culture Minister Franck Riester and five MPs are among those who have tested positive.

In his previous televised address on Tuesday, Macron reiterated that “we mustn’t give in to panic”. He criticised Austria and Slovenia for closing the border with Italy, Europe’s most affected country, saying they were making “bad decisions in doing so”.

French officials have hinted that it is only a matter of time before Phase 3 is reached.

If the government lifts its response to "Phase 3", it means it considers the coronavirus to be circulating widely among the population, requiring extra countermeasures – but it was not immediately clear what those new measures would be.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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