France has announced that it is suspending rent and utility bills owed by small companies in order to cushion them from economic doldrums brought about by COVID-19.

In a televised speech Monday, March 16, President Emmanuel Macron also announced the government will support French businesses by guaranteeing €300 billion (KSh 34 trillion) worth of loans.

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“No French company, whatever its size, will be exposed to the risk of collapse,” he said.

“We also owe them peace in their travel and rest: this is why, from tomorrow onwards, taxis and hotels can be mobilized for their benefit. The state will pay.”

The French president also put his country into full lockdown, declaring ‘we are at war with the coronavirus.’

Borders with other European countries will also be closed, although French nationals will be allowed to ‘return home’.

Macron said earlier people would have to stay at home unless shopping for food or going to a pharmacy, heading for absolutely essential work, or exercising alone.

The country has recorded around 5,400 infections, with 400 still in intensive care in its hospitals, which are struggling to cope.

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