In France, the virus was first detected at the end of January. It was also in France that SARS-CoV-2 made its first appearance in Europe. Three people were tested positive and one of them, an 80-year-old tourist, died from COVID-19 on February 15. The epidemic started to take off in early March. By March 31, over 50,000 people had been infected and 3,523 had died. On a regional scale, the Paris region (Ile-de-France) and Grand Est reported the most infections and fatalities. France figures among the countries most hit by the pandemic.
As the epidemic progressed, more and more people got worried about the outbreak and decided to take preventive measures in terms of hygiene to curb the spread. During a survey carried out at the end of February, 70 percent of French people already stated to be willing to accept total quarantine in order to ban the threat the new virus posed. On March 8, the government prohibited gatherings of more than 1,000 people and on March 16, President Macron announced a national lockdown. The televised speech, which was broadcasted by several national TV stations, gathered a total audience of more than 35 million people. Nevertheless, the preferred sources of information for French people regarding the novel coronavirus are the internet and social media.
Due to the outbreak of the virus, the OECD revised its interim projections and predicted a drop of 0.3 percent for the French gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. Also, the French benchmark stock market index CAC 40 started to plummet as early as the end of February and experienced the biggest drop in its history on March 12. Naturally though, not all industries are impacted in the same way. While some sectors like transportation, tourism and hospitality will be severely hit by the pandemic, the crisis also led to an increase in supermarket and online sales.