France Closing All Schools and Universities Over Pandemic, Macron Says

March 12, 2020 Updated: March 12, 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron announced Thursday that all schools and universities in the country will be shut down on March 16 in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

During a televised address, the French president said the measure will be implemented on Monday, March 16, after a spike in confirmed cases in the past several days.

“It is one of the most serious health crises France has ever faced,” he said, according to The Independent. “In spite of our efforts to stop it, the virus is still spreading.”

Nearly 3,000 people have been infected with the virus in the country, health officials confirmed. As a result, Macron said that it’s paramount to slow down the spread of the virus, which causes a diseased called COVID-19.

“Starting Monday, all nurseries, schools, and universities will be closed,” he said in the address. But he didn’t offer a timetable, including how long the institutions would be closed.

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Police officers check citizens and tourists at the Venice Santa Lucia railway station in Venice, to make sure that they are not violating the quarantine, before they get on the trains to leave the city, in Italy on March 10, 2020. (Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)

People who are over the age of 70 or individuals who are in poor health should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, Macron said. Experts have said that the COVID-19 disease causes more fatalities among the elderly and those with underlying health problems.

“Protecting our most vulnerable is the most important thing right now,” Macron also said. France’s upcoming municipal elections, set for March 15 and March 22, will not be suspended, he said.

“But I am calling on all of you to take responsibility,” Macron said. “This crisis must be an occasion to mobilize together, all of us.”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced similar measures earlier in the day, closing down schools and allowing teachers to instruct students online or remotely until March 29. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also made a similar declaration on Thursday, closing down all private and public schools for three weeks starting on March 16.

Neighboring European countries have imposed drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus, which emerged in mainland China in 2019. Italy’s leadership announced a country-wide lockdown and closed down all businesses except for essential stores.

The situation in Italy, however, is more dire as more than 1,000 people have died from the virus and over 12,000 cases have been confirmed in what is now the worst outbreak outside of China, according to Italian health authorities.

Macron said he would speak to President Donald Trump on Friday to discuss measures on what the G7 group of large economies can implement during the outbreak. The White House placed a ban on mainland Europeans to enter the United States to curb the spread of the virus, which Trump announced on Wednesday night.