French President Emmanuel Macron, left, puts his arm around the shoulder of Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte and gives him a kiss on both cheeks during a joint press conference on the occasion of the first French-Italian summit in more than two years, in Naples, southern Italy, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (Photo: AP)
France is banning all indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people to slow the spread of coronavirus cases and recommending that people no longer greet each other with kisses.
The cancellation of large gatherings in confined spaces was announced by Health Minister Olivier Veran after special government meetings Saturday 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.
He said other outdoor events and gatherings that might lead to a mixing of people from infected areas could also be canceled.
Public gatherings are being banned completely in the Oise region north of Paris that has seen a cluster of cases, and in a town in the foothills of the Alps that has also seen infections, he said.
As of Saturday, France had registered a total of 73 people infected with the coronavirus, up from 57 on Friday. Of those, 59 people remain hospitalized, two have died and 12 have recovered, the minister said.