Euro Nations Grappling With Coronavirus: French Culture Minister Tests Positive; Prague Film Fest Postponed

France’s culture minister Franck Riester has tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming one of the country’s most high-profile cases to date.

Reuters reported that Riester had most likely contracted the virus from five French parliamentarians who have also been diagnosed. The country’s health minister Olivier Veran said Riester is doing well and resting at home, adding that he last met French President Emmanuel Macron several days ago, though the government has been taking steps to avoid transmission including banning handshakes in meetings.

The Covid-19 death toll in France has now risen to 30, up from 25 yesterday. There have been more than 1,400 confirmed cases in the country. France is the second worst-hit European nation behind Italy, where there have been more than 9,000 cases and 463 deaths.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Czech Republic and Austria have both today enforced a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 100 people to stem the virus spread, according to the Associated Press and Czech News Agency CTK. The move will see cinemas closed across the nations, while the upcoming Prague International Film Festival (Febiofest), which Woody Harrelson and Agnieszka Holland were set to attend, has been moved off its March 19-27 dates to a later slot in 2020, which organizers said would depend on the development of the epidemic in the country.

Italy has imposed a widespread lockdown, closing all public institutions including schools and cinemas until April 3. The French government has now imposed a ban on all gatherings of more than 1,000 people, replacing the previous ban on gatherings of more than 5,000. There are exceptions, including some public demonstrations, but events such as large concerts by Madonna and Simple Minds have been cancelled to meet the regulation. Many major sports events are behind played behind closed doors, including this week’s Champion’s League soccer matches, while the scheduled Six Nations rugby match between France and Ireland has been postponed along with the rest of the tournament.

In the entertainment biz, eyes continue to be trailed on Series Mania and the Cannes Film Festival, which maintain that they are moving ahead with plans for their 2020 editions in March and May respectively.

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