March 15, 2020 / 9:54 PM / 23 days ago

France preparing confinement order to fight coronavirus - sources

PARIS (Reuters) - France is preparing an order that would put its inhabitants under partial lockdown to combat the coronavirus epidemic, sources aware of the planning said on Sunday, a move that would tighten further restrictions on public life.

It was not clear whether the government had taken a final decision to order people to stay in their homes or how long the confinement would last.

Emmanuel Macron’s office said the president and his prime minister had already spoken when announcing earlier restrictions and would communicate again if the public health situation evolved.

One source familiar with the drafting of the decree said the confinement would begin at midnight on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Saturday ordered all restaurants, bars and cinemas to close and urged citizens to minimise their non-essential movements as the number of coronavirus-related deaths and infections spiralled higher.

But on Sunday, people mingled in parks, river banks and public spaces from Paris to Marseille, causing concern among officials that the public was not heeding warnings.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who called for border closures early on in the outbreak in Europe, said a confinement order was necessary.

The number of deaths from the coronavirus increased by more than a third on Sunday to 127 and more than 5,423 have been infected.

Reporting by Paris Newsroom; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by John Irish and Diane Craft

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