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France closes restaurants, cafes, movie theaters and other nonessential shops to fight coronavirus

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Key Points
  • The order applies to restaurants, cafes, movie theaters and nightclubs.
  • Grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and public transportation will remain open to the public.  
  • France is the second largest economy in the European Union, followed by Italy and Spain. 
A man sits in a cafe near Place de la Republique wearing a face mask as cases of Coronavirus rise in France on March 1, 2020 in Paris, France.
Kiran Ridley

France will close all nonessential stores in order to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus in Europe, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Saturday in a press conference. 

The order applies to restaurants, cafes, movie theaters and nightclubs effective at midnight, Philippe said. Grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and public transportation will remain open to the public.  

There are at least 4,481 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 91 deaths in France, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The WHO declared Europe the "epicenter" of the global pandemic earlier this week.  

"More cases are now being reported [in Europe] every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday at a news conference in Geneva.

Italy, the hardest hit country outside China, has imposed a nationwide lockdown. Spain is reportedly preparing to announce similar measures this weekend as cases spike there. 

France is the second largest economy in the European Union, followed by Italy and Spain. Germany, the EU's largest economy, has called for the cancellation of most public events to stop the spread of the virus.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the coronavirus presents a more extraordinary situation than the banking crisis that roiled the euro zone currency union a decade ago. 

Though the virus is having a massive impact on daily life and economic activity in Europe, the European Central Bank surprised markets by declining to cut interest rates this week. The central bank did announce measures to support bank lending and expanded its asset purchase program by 120 billion euros. 

Both the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England have cut rates in response to the global pandemic. 

--CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed to this report