Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
France is likely to extend its two-week lockdown to try to slow the coronavirus pandemic as the country's interior minister blasted “idiots” ignoring the order to stay home.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said French citizens were underestimating the risk. "There are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules while they are in fact idiots,” he told Europe 1 Radio, according to AFP.
After announcing the 15-day lockdown for the entire country, the French government on Tuesday enacted a policy mandating that anyone who leaves their home must have official documentation stating their reason for being outside. All French citizens were required to download a form with their name, birthday and reason for being outside. If anyone is caught outside without the form, police have been authorized to levy fines.
Even so, news reports have shown groups of people strolling in parks and ignoring the 1-meter (3-foot) social distancing rule. French President Emmanuel Macron said the only acceptable reasons for leaving the house are going to the doctor, walking the dog or going for a solitary run.
Some officials have called for stricter limits, and Paris police are considering shutting down riverside walkways, a move Bordeaux has already taken.
Macron on Thursday decried that so many people seemed to take the confinement measures “lightly.”
"When I see that people continue to go to the park, to the beach or to rush into open markets," it means "they have not understood" the rules of the lockdown, Macron told reporters while visiting the Pasteur Institute for medical research in Paris.
Genevieve Chene, who heads France's public health agency, said it is likely that an extension to confinement will be necessary. She said that two to four weeks of confinement will be needed for the outbreak to be contained.
"It is likely that it is indeed necessary to extend [the containment measures] in order for the braking to be sufficient," she said, before adding that France’s outbreak was likely to peak around the middle or end of May. She stressed that the timing depended on how closely people followed confinement measures.
Access to the entire Mediterranean coast closed because “we are seeing too many people on the beaches,” according to Pierre Dartout.
Castaner also called out the theft of surgical masks from hospitals and said authorities would deal harshly with anyone involved in the “despicable” trade of stealing such protective equipment.