France urges caution at Sunday mass to curb coronavirus spread
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As France institutes a ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people in a bid to stop the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, the health ministry has urged people attending Sunday church services to take precautions. The Louvre museum in Paris has also shut its doors as a precaution, as several new cases have been identified across the country.
The archbishop of Paris advised parish priests not to administer communion by placing the sacramental bread in worshippers' mouths on Sunday 1 March. Churches have been asked to empty containers of holy water at the entrance, to avoid people dipping their fingers into contaminated water.
Similar messages were passed around mosques, with the French Muslim council (CFCM) asking imams to take measures to stop the spread of the virus, by encouraging people to avoid shaking hands, to wash their hands frequently, and to only use disposable towels.
Health Minister Olivier Veran has advised people to avoid shaking hands and to avoid the customary greeting kiss, “la bise”, as well as other forms of physical contact.
In France, now the country in Europe with the second most coronavirus cases, after Italy, there was a similar recommendation not to touch during the swine flu epidemic a decade ago.
Louvre closed, events cancelled
On Sunday, the Louvre museum in Paris closed its doors amid fears by employees of being contaminated by visitors from around the world.
A short statement from the Louvre said a staff meeting about virus prevention efforts stopped the museum from opening as scheduled Sunday morning.
Events involving large groups of people have been cancelled, including the Paris half-marathon on Sunday and the last day of the annual agricultural fair.
Sunday’s basketball championship game between Villeurbanne and Monaco at the Astroballe has been postponed.
More cases identified
France now has 100 confirmed cases of the virus, with two deaths.
The mayor of the village of La Balme-de-Sillingy in the Alps, which had several cases of the virus, has also been diagnosed and is in hospital in Annecy.
In a video on Facebook, François Daviet, wearing a mask, said that the test he took on Saturday came back positive, and he will be hospitalised with the 13 other residents already infected, though health officials have only identified six people contaminated.
His re-election campaign for elections later this month has been put on hold. He had been in contact with several people before his diagnosis, on a visit to the agricultural fair in Paris.
A couple from Rennes who had visited the Oise department, a firefighter and a nurse, have also been diagnosed with the virus and hospitalised, though their two kids tested negative.
Regional health authorities say the firefighter had limited contact with others as he has not been on active duty for several weeks, though as a precaution, the fire station has shut down operations.
Two other cases have been identified in the north-western city of Brest: a couple who had just returned from Egypt, who are currently hospitalised in intensive care.
For medical advice related to the coronavirus, people in France should call the emergency services on 15. For non-medical questions the government has set up a free “green number” 0 800 130 000, with updates on its website here.
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