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France set to postpone second round of local elections over coronavirus fears

The government has been criticised for pressing ahead with a first round of voting on Sunday, March 15, 2020.
The government has been criticised for pressing ahead with a first round of voting on Sunday, March 15, 2020. © Eric Gaillard, REUTERS

France will postpone the second round of mayoral elections to June 21 following talks between government officials and opposition party leaders, according the French media reports.

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Prime Minister Édouard Philippe recommended postponing the vote amid the rapidly worsening coronavirus outbreak, according to sources familiar with the matter.

An official announcement is expected later on Monday when President Emmanuel Macron addresses the nation.

The sources also said that the results of the first round of local elections on Sunday would remain valid.

The government has been criticised for choosing to press ahead with the first round even as it imposed stringent curbs on public life in a frantic effort to slow the virus’s spread.

>> Green surge and low turnout as virus fears weigh on French local elections

Macron was to hold a meeting with senior ministers and top military and intelligence advisers before giving a televised address at 8pm Paris time (19:00 GMT).

Outbreak 'deteriorating very fast'

Earlier on Monday, France’s director general of health Jérôme Salomon said that the coronavirus outbreak in France is "very worrying" and "deteriorating very fast".

"The number of cases double every three days," Salomon said on the France Inter radio network.

"I want our citizens to realise that there are people who are sick, who are in intensive care and that (their number) runs into hundreds," he added

According to the latest official figures published on Sunday, France has had 127 coronavirus deaths and 5,423 confirmed cases.

"There is a real worry that the speed of the outbreak could saturate hospitals and this is something we absolutely want to avoid," Salomon said, singling out the badly affected eastern region of Alsace near Germany and the greater Paris area.

"This is why we must do everything to slow down the outbreak," he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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