Coronavirus: Four French MPs test positive for deadly virus as cases soar to over 1,200

Four members of France’s National Assembly have tested positive for coronavirus, the lower house’s presidency said in a statement on Sunday. Conservative MP Jean-Luc Reitzer was rushed to intensive care late last week where he is in a critical but stable condition; while centrist MP Elisabeth Toutut-Picard, a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) party, was hospitalised over the weekend but has since been sent home.

The third legislator is Guillaume Vuilletet, also of LREM, who said in a Twitter post on Monday that he was in self-isolation after testing positive for the illness on Friday.

The fourth politician was named later on Monday as Sylvie Tolmont, a socialist MP who stressed she was not in a serious condition and already recovering.  

Marc Fesneau, the minister in charge of relations with parliament, said that suspending parliament because of the outbreak was “not on the agenda”.

The Assembly has “taken things in hand and implemented all the necessary measures” to limit the disease’s spread, he told Europe 1 radio on Sunday.

However, sessions in the lower house will be interrupted for two weeks from March 9 to March 22 due to municipal elections that are taking place across France, reducing activity and the number of people present in the building.

Green MP David Belliard, for his part, said that a ban on all non-essential travel like in neighbouring Italy “would not solve the problem nor reduce the infection risk”.

He told France Info radio: “On the contrary, it would create a climate of anxiety and be counterproductive.”

France on Sunday banned all public gatherings of more than 1,000 people in an effort to contain the spread of the virus as the death toll from the outbreak rose with over 1,200 cases confirmed nationwide.

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

Following a meeting with Mr Macron at the Elysée presidential palace, Health Minister Olivier Véran said that the coronavirus alert level remained at Stage 2, with the government focusing its efforts on protecting citizens while responding with proportionate measures.

These include the ban on public gatherings.

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

France is currently the second-worst hit country in Europe after Italy, which has registered more than 360 deaths.

The virus has killed more than 3,800 people and infected over 108,000 in 92 countries since the outbreak first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December.

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

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva last week: “This is not a drill. This epidemic is a threat for every country, rich and poor.”

The epidemic has thrown international business and financial markets into turmoil as investors panic over the potential damage to global economic growth.

The tourism industry has also been badly hit.

The number of international tourist arrivals is expected to plummet this year due to the virus, according to the WHO, reversing a previous forecast for a substantial increase.

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