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France houses its homeless to combat COVID-19

Shelters to be opened in each region, hotel rooms being requisitioned to facilitate vulnerable

Cindi Cook   | 19.03.2020
France houses its homeless to combat COVID-19

PARIS

The French government has announced it will establish shelters in every region of the country, with several to open in those with higher populations, to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The move comes as President Emmanuel Macron announced a 15-day countrywide lockdown earlier this week.

All people residing within France's borders are instructed to stay home, leaving only for essential outings such as food purchases, medical appointments, or walking pets. Travel out of the country is also prohibited until further notice.

There will be 2,875 available spaces in 80 sites that have been chosen to date. Some 150 beds will also be established in each facility for those who test positive for COVID-19 but whose condition does not need hospitalization.

Hotel rooms are also being requisitioned both in the capital and throughout France to house those most vulnerable, announced Julien Denormandie, the minister responsible for City and Housing.

Several facilities opened in Paris on Wednesday evening, and "more than 170 should be open by the end of the week in the capital," Denormandie said.

The minister said he favored facilities with separate rooms to provide further containment, adding that meetings were held with hoteliers to assess the situation.

One company, the Accor group, immediately provided 600 separate hotel classes that the ministry will work with. A meeting will take place with more hoteliers today to discuss further housing possibilities.

Some €50 million have already been released to the ministry to enable them to open the rooms and provide all necessary relief supplies and staffing for the shelters.

Charities running food banks and shelters have found outreach difficult during the crisis, as the need to self-isolate takes priority.

The Red Cross says it recognizes the severity of the situation for those most at risk.

"As in every crisis, the most fragile, the most isolated and destitute will be the most exposed and the most forgotten. Our association is doing everything to maintain these actions, in compliance with the provisions taken by public authorities," the non-profit said in a statement.

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