Paris (AFP)

Schools will remain closed for more than 300,000 students from Monday in the most active coronavirus outbreaks in France, where gatherings of more than 1,000 people are now prohibited to fight the spread of the epidemic.

Second most affected country in Europe, after Italy, France is increasing prevention measures, more than a thousand people being contaminated in France.

In Haut-Rhin and Oise, two of the most affected departments, all schools and nurseries remain closed from Monday and for at least two weeks.

In Ajaccio, the prefecture of Corse-du-Sud has also announced the closure for two weeks of all schools, a measure concerning about 10,000 students. This city is now considered a hotbed of contamination. Twenty-three of the 28 cases in Corsica have been recorded there.

- Still in stage 2 -

Across the country, all gatherings of more than a thousand people are prohibited, announced the Minister of Health Olivier Véran, after a Defense Council at the Elysée Palace on Sunday evening, the third since the virus appeared in December.

So far, only gatherings of more than 5,000 people had been banned, which had already resulted in numerous cancellations of fairs (Mondial du tattoo, Salon du Livre), concerts, shows and sports performances.

"We are still at stage 2 this evening, this means that our priority is to do everything to slow the circulation of the virus on the national territory," stressed Mr. Véran, while France has 1,126 people infected and 19 deaths.

"The epidemic has not, at this stage, affected the whole country, but it is progressing in certain territories in which the viral activity is very dynamic", specified the minister, who will soften the conditions to have recourse to teleconsultations. He also signed a decree making it possible to cap overtime hours for healthcare professionals in the hospital.

At the National Assembly, two new cases of coronavirus were identified among the deputies, announced Sunday evening the ARS Ile-de-France, without revealing their identity. This brings the number of parliamentarians infected to four and to two the number of agents tested positive.

Faced with the exceptional situation, France is preparing for the transition to stage 3 of the state of alert, "inexorable", according to President Emmanuel Macron, and which should occur in the coming days.

- Municipal measures -

Unlike stage 2, stage 3, that of the epidemic, no longer aims to stop the spread but to mitigate the consequences. It provides for the suspension of certain public transport, the closure of schools in all or part of the territory, the restriction of gatherings and the mobilization of all care sectors: hospitals, liberal health professionals and care and aid services home.

For healthcare establishments, on the front line in the fight against the coronavirus, it is a question of being ready for the triggering of the "white plan". A "blue plan", the counterpart for accommodation establishments for the elderly (Ehpad), will be activated to provide for the increase in staff and to prevent the isolation of residents.

One week before the first municipal round, "exceptional" measures will also be put in place for the ballot.

In Mulhouse, a major center for coronavirus, surgical gloves and hydroalcoholic gel for disinfecting hands, for example, will be made available to voters.

© 2020 AFP