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France opens homeless self-isolation centres amid coronavirus pandemic

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A homeless man hugs his dog as he sits along a deserted street on March 18, 2020
A homeless man hugs his dog as he sits along a deserted street on March 18, 2020   -   Copyright  SYLVAIN THOMAS/AFP or licensors
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France's Ministry of Housing is opening two isolation centres in Paris to cater to the city's homeless as the coronavirus lockdown enters its second day.

Each will have 150 beds for homeless people who test positive for COVID-19 but do not need to be hospitalised, it said.

The initiative will be expanded across France, with authorities planning to open one centre in every region, with several centres in larger regions.

Over 80 sites across the country have been chosen by the authorities for now, with a total of 2,875 available places.

"Access to the centres will be decided based on medical advice", the ministry said.

The Occitanie region in southwestern France said on Wednesday that it would immediately open a centre in Toulouse, with 50 places, from Wednesday night.

It added that another centres with 40 places would open in the region before the end of the week.

Since the French government took strong measures to enforce self-isolation for all French residents on Tuesday, charities helping the homeless have had to stop much of their outreach work, including food banks and shelters.

"This is due to a lack of people as employees and volunteers have to self-isolate or care for their children who are off school", Florent Gueguen, the director of the non-profit Federation for actor of solidarity (FAS), explained to AFP.

He also said that groups don't have enough protection masks.

Around 157,000 people are currently housed in French homeless shelters.

The French government announced on Sunday that the end of the "winter truce", during which no one can be asked to leave their current accomodation, has been delayed until 31 May.

It was previously to end on 31 March.

"Housing centres must stay open to keep offering accomodation for people in precarious situations," the ministry said.

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