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Coronavirus In Europe: Several Countries, Now Including France, Order Shutdown


The epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak has moved from China to Europe. More than 2,000 people have died in Italy, and the virus is spreading quickly in Spain. France is the latest European country to close its borders. President Emmanuel Macron is placing France in complete lockdown, effective tomorrow. For more on this, we are joined by Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

Hi, Eleanor.


SHAPIRO: What did President Macron say when he addressed the nation today?

BEARDSLEY: Well, he just spoke, and he said despite government measures to keep people from getting close - you know, all the bars and restaurants were closed Saturday and cinemas. Gatherings have been limited to 100 people. Schools were closed a week ago. He said people are still gathering. He chastised the French for Sunday. Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day, and people were out in the park, strolling on the Seine River. It was just like a summer day. He says, I have no choice but to reduce people's movement and contacts. Here he is speaking on the nightly news tonight.



BEARDSLEY: So he says going out to meet your friends in the street, the park - that's not possible anymore. You have to stay home. You can only go out to buy groceries, go to the doctor - essential movement. There will be policing and infractions. Ari, he repeated many times, we are at war. He called on people's sense of solidarity, responsibility. He says, France has one goal - slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

SHAPIRO: So that's the picture in France. What about other parts of Europe?

BEARDSLEY: Well, you know, Germany has 7,000 cases now - ahead of France - huge number of cases but very few deaths - like, 14 deaths. In Spain, they have skyrocketed - the cases - and so have the deaths. Spain closed its borders today. Switzerland closed its borders, and Spain - and it has declared a state of emergency.

SHAPIRO: Are the European countries coordinating their response? I mean, is the European Union involved?

BEARDSLEY: You know, Ari, up to now, they've just begun talking about it, and they haven't done very well. But today they were reading off the same sheet. You know, EU leaders gave a press conference, and they say they want to close the EU borders for 30 days. Here is European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN: Our health care system is under huge pressure. Therefore, member states have taken strong measures to slow down the spread of the virus. These measures are effective only when they are coordinated.

SHAPIRO: Some of these measures go farther than what the U.S. has done so far - I mean, forcing people to stay at home, fining them if they go out. How are Europeans reacting to their government's policies?

BEARDSLEY: Well, you know, when it was happening in China, people were just sort of disconnected, but Italy really hit home. So you hear about the Italian solidarity, people singing from balconies. And Spain has clearly had to adapt very quickly. I would say, Ari, that today the French really woke up, and it was hard. Saturday night, they're having a last drink before the cafes closing, Sunday in the park - and now stay home. I mean, there's a huge difference between, you know, limit your gatherings to 10 people and don't come out of your house. And I felt that difference today. Even before Macron spoke, everyone knew that's something big coming.

And I even saw the change today. There was no one out. In the grocery store, they would shut the doors to keep, you know, the customer level low. And, you know, the cashier was saying, please keep six feet apart. And one guy stocking the shelves, he told a woman, ma'am, you really shouldn't even be here. So there is an intensity to it now that I didn't even feel yesterday.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, thank you very much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Ari.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOGO PENGUIN'S "BRANCHES BREAK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

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