France is sinking and re-fining

In a speech to the nation, Emmanuel Macron called, Wednesday evening, for the “mobilization of everyone”, before a return to normal life

Posted on 1is April 2021 at 12:00 am

Jean-Christophe Laurence

Schools closed for three weeks, reconfinement extended to the whole country, renewed financial aid …

In a televised address as expected as it was apprehended, Emmanuel Macron asked, Wednesday evening, a final effort from the French in order to emerge once and for all from the health crisis.

“If I am speaking to you this evening, it is to call for the mobilization of everyone for this month of April where a lot is being played out”, declared the President of the Republic at the beginning of his speech by evoking the ” acceleration ”of the COVID-19 epidemic.

The reinforced measures, which so far only concerned 19 departments, will therefore be extended to the rest of the territory, for one month. They mainly concern the curfew at 7 p.m., the closure of non-essential businesses, systematic teleworking and the ban on traveling more than 10 km from home.

For their part, kindergartens and primary and secondary schools will be closed for three weeks, before a gradual return to class scheduled for the end of April.

“I know that this reorganization involves profound changes for the parents of students and for the families, but it is the most suitable solution to curb the virus, while preserving the education and therefore the future of our children” , explained the head of state.

Emmanuel Macron announced, in the process, the extension of financial aid to individuals and businesses affected by the restrictions, starting with parents who will be forced to stay at home during the closure of schools.

These new measures come as the situation deteriorates in French hospitals, where the symbolic bar of 5,000 patients in intensive care has just been exceeded.

The pressure was growing for Mr. Macron to decide in favor of total reconfinement. Its strategy of reconfiguring locally has not yielded the expected fruits, the country being hit hard by the third wave.

To the opposition’s criticism were those of doctors and scientists, who blamed him for not acting earlier, despite the appearance of the more contagious British variant, and a particularly slow vaccination campaign at the start.

Too little too late, say the doctors

For some, however, this additional turn of the screw comes a little too late.

This is the case of SNUipp-FSU, the national union of primary school teachers, which accuses the government of not having taken upstream decisions that could have avoided a new closure of schools.

What is really unfortunate is that we did nothing in France to prevent this, because we did nothing to prevent the circulation of the virus in schools, because our protocol is not quite protective.

Ghislaine David, SNUipp-FSU spokesperson

Emmanuel Macron admitted, for his part, to have “made mistakes” in the management of the health crisis. However, he refused to do his “mea culpa” for having decided, at the end of January, not to reconfigure the entire country, while nearly half of the French said they were hostile to this option.

On a more optimistic note, he announced the start of a return to normal, with the reopening of some places of culture as well as bar and restaurant terraces, from mid-May. A glimmer of hope, while the vaccination campaign is accelerating and a vaccine is promised to all French people who want it “by the end of the summer”. So far, only 8 million French people have received their first dose of vaccine, or about 12% of the population.

The presidential election in sight

This prospect of an end to the crisis is good news for Emmanuel Macron, as the 2022 presidential election looms.

“We are entering a very mined area. Because now, each of its decisions will be scrutinized ”, underlines Olivier Ihl, professor of political science at Sciences Po Grenoble.

An Odoxa poll, published Monday, reveals that 61% of French people perceive Emmanuel Macron as a bad president, while 70% criticize the government’s management of the health crisis.

But unlike Angela Merkel, who is not running for office in Germany, or Boris Johnson, who still has three years ahead of him in the United Kingdom, the French head of state has only one year to make people forget his failures and regain the favor of public opinion.

“It’s an additional pressure,” concludes the political scientist.

France recorded 335 additional deaths on Tuesday, according to official data, which shows a death toll of nearly 95,000 since the start of the health crisis.

With Agence France-Presse

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