French government closes over 100 schools to combat coronavirus spread

Fear of the novel coronavirus is being felt around the world, with school closures and empty public spaces serving as a testament to rising global anxiety.

In France, authorities have ordered over 100 schools to be closed as the deadly disease known as COVID-19 continues to fester in Europe, The Hill reports. There are currently about 200 cases of the virus in the country, which neighbors one of the world’s worst hotspots in Italy.

France closes more than 100 schools

The novel coronavirus has impacted social, economic and cultural life around the globe, as governments scramble to respond to a disease that has infected more than 90,000 people and killed more than 3,000. Much about the disease remains unknown, and there is currently no vaccine.

Amid a climate of fear, governments in impacted countries are ordering widespread closures of schools and other public institutions. In France, officials appeared to be one step behind neighboring Italy, the worst outbreak site in the Western world, as officials moved to close 120 schools.

The closures, mostly in Brittany and the region north of Paris, will affect 35,000 children. Jean-Michel Blanquer, the country’s education minister, also called on schools to delay any previously planned trips. Meanwhile, the country’s economic minister, Bruno Le Maire, told consumers to avoid “precautionary shopping” as store shelves have begun to empty north of Paris.

Coronavirus sends global shocks

The French government’s response is an eerie echo of the containment efforts in Italy, where the government plans to order all schools and universities temporarily closed for two weeks, CNBC reported. The virus has exploded in Italy, which now has roughly 2,500 cases and at least 79 deaths, the worst outbreak outside of Asia. France has seen more than 200 cases and four deaths, Reuters reported.

Transmission of the virus is slowing in China, where it originated, but it’s now spreading faster through the rest of the world. COVID-19 has already interrupted international business and travel, with the stock market taking a hit as more and more companies brace for the prospect of requiring employees to work from home. Tourism is also suffering: in Paris, the famous Louvre museum reopened Wednesday after having temporarily closed, according to USA Today.

Isolation is the word as people have altered their habits to avoid infection, and those suspected of carrying the disease have been asked to “self-quarantine.” In cities around the world, sparsely populated airports, streets, and shops with depleted store shelves are signs of global panic.

Death toll in U.S. climbs

In the United States, the disease is beginning to spread through person-to-person contact in communities in Washington, Oregon, and California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned. President Donald Trump has struck a tone of optimism even as cases continue to crop up in new states and the death toll reached 11, with most of those fatalities occurring in Washington state.

There are now over 100 cases in the U.S., and more cases are expected as testing acceleratesThe New York Times reports. The Trump administration has warned the public to take precautions to avoid infection, but otherwise has insisted that the average, healthy American has no reason to panic. The majority of fatalities so far have been confined to elderly residents in the Seattle, Washington area.

Bracing for pandemic?

But with the virus gaining a foothold in more and more U.S. states, there is a sense that the crisis is beginning to resemble outbreaks abroad. Schools across America have canceled classes, although there has not been the kind of broad, government-mandated closures seen elsewhere, according to CNBC.

Officials with the CDC are now warning Americans to expect disruptions to their lives as a result of coronavirus, stating: “Widespread transmission of COVID-19 would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism.”

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