French parliament records third coronavirus case as death toll mounts in France

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A French lawmaker has been hospitalised after contracting coronavirus, the National Assembly announced Saturday, bringing the number of proven cases in the lower house of parliament to three. The death toll in France mounted to 11 people with 716 confirmed cases nationwide.

The National Assembly did not name the legislator who recently caught the disease, but said the third case was a female parliamentarian.

A legislator from the eastern Alsace region was hospitalised in intensive care on Thursday after contracting the disease and a snack bar worker in the National Assembly building had also caught the virus.

France’s health ministry on Saturday announced two more deaths from coronavirus, taking the national toll to 11, with the number of confirmed cases jumping to 716. One of the two coronavirus fatalities was confirmed in the northern part of France, the other in Normandy, the health ministry said in a statement.

The jump in infections in France mirrored the global trend with the more than 100,000 cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In France, the virus has circulated with greater intensity in some areas, notably the northern Oise and the northeastern Haut-Rhin departments, where schools, nurseries and kindergartens will be shut for two weeks starting Monday.

France has nevertheless maintained its coronavirus alert level at stage 2, since the virus was present in some areas and not across the country. But echoing French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe recognised that france would inevitably move into stage 3 in the coming weeks.

Macron urges limits to visiting elderly

On Friday, Macron urged the French to limit visits to elderly people, who are most vulnerable to a coronavirus infection.

Macron admitted this could prove “heartbreaking” at times but said the measure was simply one of common sense.

He emphasised that young people should not be visiting the old because “as we know, they (the young) transmit the virus a lot”.

Those who died in France so far have been old with pre-existing conditions.

The French president shook up his agenda this week to include a visit to an old age home, where he stressed his government’s commitment to helping those most vulnerable to the disease.

“Our absolute priority is to protect the people who are the most fragile in the face of this virus,” Macron said. “The nation is behind our old people.”

EU parliament session moves from Strasbourg to Brussels

Macron’s call came a day after a French lawmaker was hospitalised in intensive care after contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

A snack bar worker had also contracted the virus and had been confined to home, while another worker in the lawmakers’ dining hall who was suspected of having caught the virus had been hospitalised, the National Assembly said Thursday.

In a sign of the growing concern over the French figures, the EU parliament announced that the venue for next week’s session would be switched from Strasbourg in eastern France to the parliament’s second chamber in the Belgian capital, Brussels, which has been closed to the public.

“The situation related to the spread of the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has evolved over the last few days and hours. In particular, new infection clusters have been confirmed and case numbers are rising,” Parliament President David Sassoli said in a statement.

“The necessary security conditions are not in place for the usual transfer of the European Parliament to Strasbourg for the plenary session next week,” he added.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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