COVID-19: France bans indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 in bid to fight new virus

France is banning all indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people to slow its snowballing spread of coronavirus cases and recommending that people no longer greet each other with kisses.

The number of French cases almost doubled, to 100, on Saturday. Of those 86 are hospitalized, two have died and 12 have recovered, said the head of France’s national health service, Jerome Salomon.

The cancellation of large gatherings in confined spaces was announced earlier Saturday by Health Minister Olivier Veran after special government meetings that focused on responses to the epidemic.

Having previously recommended that people avoid shaking hands, the minister said they should also cut back on “la bise,” the custom in France and elsewhere in Europe of giving greetings with kisses, or air kisses, on the cheeks.

The tightened restrictions on public gatherings had an immediate impact. A major four-day trade show in Cannes for property investors was postponed from March to June.

A half-marathon that was scheduled for Sunday in Paris also was cancelled, as was a carnival in the Alpine town of Annecy, Veran announced.

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