France has ordered the closure of all non-essential places used by the public from March 14 midnight as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the number of people in intensive care was growing and earlier guidelines for the public were being ignored.
The measure applies to restaurants, cafes, cinemas and nightclubs as well as non-essential businesses.
It would not, the prime minister said, affect essential businesses which he listed as food shops, chemists, banks, tobacco shops and petrol stations.
Edouard Philippe also asked people to reduce their travel, especially between towns.
“The best way to slow down the epidemic is social distancing,” he said.
“I say this gravely – we must all together show greater discipline in the application of these measures,” the prime minister added.
However, local elections due on March 15 would also still go ahead, he said. Religious buildings would remain open but gatherings and ceremonies should be postponed.
France reported a sharp rise in cases on March 14, from 3,661 to 4,499. It recorded 12 more deaths, bringing the toll to 79.
Meanwhile, Spain has confirmed a 15-day lockdown as part of emergency measures.
There will also be a reduction in medium-distance rail traffic to stem the spread of people around the country, and economic measures to support businesses and workers.
After a lengthy meeting of the country’s government cabinet, Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez said a partial lockdown would be in place across the country, with the armed forces on standby to assist with relief efforts.
All stores will be forced to close, except for those selling food and other basic necessities.
Pedro Sánchez said the state of emergency could be extended with congressional approval.
Authorities recorded 1,800 more cases since March 13 – many in the capital Madrid.
This will be the second state of emergency in the country since the transition to democracy began in 1975, the first being a 2010 air traffic controllers’ strike.
With 191 deaths and 6,046 infections, Spain is the worst-hit European country after Italy.
Rome declared a nationwide lockdown on March 16. More than 1,440 people have died in Italy.
Meanwhile, the US is extending its European coronavirus travel ban to include the UK and Republic of Ireland. The ban will begin at midnight EST on March 16, VP Mike Pence announced.
On March 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Europe was now the “epicenter” of the pandemic.
The WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilization and social distancing to save lives.