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Coronavirus: Parisians ignore warnings amid virus clampdown

People walk near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, on Sunday, March 15, 2020.
People walk near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, on Sunday, March 15, 2020. © AFP and FRANCE 24

Parisians were seen taking to the city’s parks and public spaces in their droves Sunday, just hours after the government ordered bars, restaurants and all other non-essential businesses to close and advised citizens to stay at home as much as possible. Now, stricter measures may be imminent.

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“I say this in all seriousness: We must all together show more discipline in the application of these measures,” French Prime Minister Édouard  Philippe said as he announced the closures Saturday.

“What we must do at this moment is simply avoid gathering as much as possible, limit meeting friends and family … Only leave home for essential activities.''

But on an unseasonably warm day Sunday, groups of Parisians and tourists were seen gathering with friends and family in the city's parks and on the banks of the River Seine. Some picnicked, others played football or pétanque.

On Monday, France’s public health chief Jerome Salomon warned the spread of the virus, which has killed 127 in the country and infected more than 5,400, was increasing because of people ignoring the government’s advice.

“The TV reports yesterday were stark and people were still out and about a lot,” he told France Inter radio, “and that limited adherence to the advice means we haven't been able to slow down the epidemic."

French president Emmanuel Macron is due to address the nation tonight following a high level meeting with ministers and advisors, and he is widely expected to announce tougher measures to enforce social distancing.

It remains to be seen if France will be implicating the sort of total lockdown seen in other countries, like Italy and Spain, where people have been forbidden to leave their homes unless it is for certain essential tasks, such as going to work or to buy food.

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