COVID19 health state of emergency

French MPs reverse earlier rejection, extend health emergency until February

French Minister for Solidarity and Health, Olivier Véran.
French Minister for Solidarity and Health, Olivier Véran. AP - Goeffroy van der Hasselt

One day after an embarrassing defeat in the French parliament, the ruling majority on Wednesday managed to extend the emergency health regulations until 16 February, as insisted on by health minister Olivier Véran.

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French opposition MPs argued that it was important to allow a pause so that people could celebrate Christmas. Parliament (National Assembly) on Tuesday suggested that the current state of emergency should last only until 14 December.

Health Minister Olivier Véran angrily criticised the house for its failure to accept the tragic reality represented by the Covid-19 epidemic.

“That is the reality”, he told deputies, “If you do not want to hear it, then leave this place! That is the reality in our hospitals. You are busy debating while our medical staff are battling to save lives in hospitals.”

Covid infection rates have soared in France, putting more pressure on intensive care units around the country.

Government finally gets a grip

On Wednesday evening, the original government text extending the health state of emergency to 16 February was finally accepted by 272 votes to 108, after a frequently noisy debate, and the rejection of all opposition amendments.

The legislation is due to be examined by the French Senate later Thursday, with a view to a second parliamentray reading and adoption into law on Saturday.

The declaration of a health state of emergency allows the government to impose special restrictions to deal with a major crisis, be in in the form of lockdowns or curfews.

The parliamentary leader of the far-left France Unbowed Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, criticised the government for overturning opposition proposals.

"This is typical of what you represent," he told the ruling party benches. "With a smile on your faces, you are busy building an authoritarian regime."

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