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Macron Locks Down France, EU Borders to Shut as Coronavirus Spreads Through Europe

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a television address, Monday, March 16, 2020 in Ciboure, southwestern France.

The European Union’s external borders will be closed to non-essential travel for 30 days as of Tuesday to fight the spread of the coronavirus, while France is following Italy and Spain in imposing a nationwide lockdown for at least 15 days.

In an address to the nation Monday night, President Emmanuel Macron announced France was at war against COVID-19. He announced new measures both within France and across the EU to contain its spread.

Macron said as of midday Tuesday, the EU and Europe’s visa-free Schengen zone borders would be shut for 30 days for all but essential travel. Earlier in the day, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she had made the recommendation to the 27-member bloc.

Macron also announced a minimum 15-day lockdown across France and its territories. People must drastically limit their movement outside their homes to essential work, errands and health services also as of Tuesday midday. Getting together with friends and non-household family members is forbidden, and violators risk punishment.

The new restrictions come amid surging numbers of coronavirus cases here — and as some hospitals increasingly struggle to cope with an overload of sick patients, especially in the eastern part of the country.

Macron also said the second round of local elections would be postponed, along with a series of unpopular reforms his government has pushed through in recent months. He announced measures to support businesses hard hit by the coronavirus, including more than $335 billion in tax and other relief.