Athletics: Determined runners defy ban on Paris half-marathon

In a photo taken on Feb 1, 2020, a woman wears a protective mask in light of the coronavirus outbreak as she walks at the Trocadero esplanade in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) - Several hundred determined athletes defied a government-ordered ban on large public gatherings to run Paris's half-marathon on Sunday.

The run was one of a series of events across France to be cancelled as the government attempts to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

One disappointed runner founded a Facebook group called "We're running anyway" though only a tiny fraction of the 44,000 people expected at the official event actually turned up.

"We have to stop this paranoia with what's happening. We have to keep things in perspective," a runner who gave her name only as Chloe told Reuters from the starting line.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran announced the ban on Saturday after a special cabinet meeting which also outlawed any indoor events of more than 5,000 people and any gatherings at all in the most hard-hit areas.

France had 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus on Saturday evening, most of them concentrated in a handful of towns and villages in the Oise region north of Paris and near Annecy in the Alps, and 86 people were in hospital.

There have been two deaths from the virus in France since the outbreak started.

Sports fixtures including the Italy-Ireland Six Nations rugby match have also been postponed or cancelled due to the outbreak.

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