Macron CRISIS: France wildly ‘unprepared’ for coronavirus epidemic – ‘Lack of seriousness’

Far-right European politician Nicolas Bay has slammed the French government’s handling of coronavirus, accusing it of being wildly “unprepared” for the worsening health crisis. M Bay, a senior member of the populist Rassemblement national (RN) party, told Europe 1 radio on Friday: “We have seen, since the beginning of this crisis, a lack of seriousness.

“The government is not prepared [for the possibility the virus may spread more widely].

“The government’s approach lacked foresight … and authorities are now scrambling to make up the leeway.

“The protective measures that have been taken are not bad, but they were all implemented too late.”

President Emmanuel Macron, for his part, said later on Friday that tough “binding measures” to contain the outbreak “cannot be sustained in the long term” and called instead for a “proportionate” response.

His government, however, has since been forced to ramp up its response to the epidemic after health officials reported a steep jump in cases.

The death toll from coronavirus has reached 21 in France and the number of confirmed cases over 1,200.

Following an emergency meeting led by M Macron on Sunday, Health Minister Olivier Veran said the coronavirus alert level remained at Stage 2, with the government focused on protecting citizens while tackling the outbreak with proportionate measures.

M Veran said: “This evening we are still in the second stage, meaning that our priority is to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus”.

The latest measures include a ban on public gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

But protests, exams and public transportation could be exempt from the ban because they are “useful to the life of the country”.  

Authorities had earlier banned public gatherings of more than 5,000 people in confined venues.

The ban will have major consequences for sporting and entertainment events, with cancellations including key football and rugby games, a book fair and a tattoo salon.

M Veran, however, said that the nationwide mayoral elections, slated for March 15 and 22, would carry on as scheduled.

The flu-like illness has killed more than 3,800 people and infected more than 108,000 across 92 nations since the outbreak first emerged in China’s Wuhan in late December.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called the rapid spread of the deadly virus “deeply concerning” and urged all countries affected to “make containment their highest priority”.

“This epidemic is a threat for every country, rich and poor. As we have said before, even high-income countries should expect surprises,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva last week.

What is needed, Mr Tedros added, is “aggressive preparedness”. He said: “This is not a drill.

“This is not the time to give up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops.”

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