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Covid-19 lockdown

Macron to address France on covid strategy, unions warn of 'mounting anger'

French Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex during a video conference at the Elysée palace, 17 November 2020.
French Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex during a video conference at the Elysée palace, 17 November 2020. AP - Ludovic Marin
5 min

French President Emmanuel Macron will again address the nation on television on Tuesday evening, to outline the next step in handling the Covid-19 epidemic. Trade unions have high expectations for the government’s strategy and have spoken out over the need to give citizens some hope, especially those struggling with the economic fallout of the health crisis.

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Macron’s speech, at 8pm local time, will follow on the heels of a special Defence Council meeting, a weekly sit-down with members of his cabinet and scientific experts who give updates and recommendations with regards to the Covid-19 situation.

The president is expected to announce three phases of easing lockdown measures in place since the end of October. One for 1 December, another concerning the Christmas school holiday period and finally a perspective on the beginning of 2021.

The president told French media at the weekend that he promised to give the French people “coherence, clarity and direction, in order to know where we’re going and how to get there.”

  • Shops: as of 1 December, restrictions lifted for ‘non essential’, such as book shops, clothing stores, real estate agencies and so on.They will be required to impose slightly more strict measures: 8 square metres per client compared to 4 square metres prior to closure, as well as masks, and hand gel.
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  • Church: A protocol has been put forward by church leaders which will be discussed during the defence council meeting. They propose for services to start from the weekend of 28,29 November, with the number of people limited to between 30 and 50 depending on the size of the church
  • 1km restriction: There is talk of this being lifted to 5 kilometres
  • Christmas school holidays: as 18 December, the question on everyone’s lips is "can we go away for the holidays or not?" The question of limits on the distances people will be able to travel and possible curfews will be addressed.

  • Ski stations: which normally open at the end of November, are anxiously waiting to know their fate. The prime minister’s office has said an announcement will be made in the next ten days.

  • Cafés and restaurants will have to wait until at least the beginning of January before they can open.

  • Cultural spaces such as museums, cinemas and theatres are still waiting to find out if they can reopen.

Mounting anger

Meanwhile, the leaders of major trade unions in France have spoken out about the "mounting anger" in the country, and the need to show support for people suffering the economic consequences of the health crisis.

Describing the situation as a “pressure-cooker,” CFDT’s Laurent Berger told France 2 television that Emmanuel Macron needed to give citizens “perspectives and vision,” and called for more financial support to be given to those in precarious situations, especially young people.

"People are in a state of pyschological fatigue, they are turning in on themselves, they need a perspective, that’s the role of the country’s leader…We need vision, it’s lacking and we’re expecting him [Macron] to give us this direction."

Individual responsibility

“I think that when the people speak out, the government better be paying attention,” warns CGT leader Philippe Martinez speaking to RMC.

“There are really dramatic situations out there, young people, in precarious circumstances, but also all those employees out of work.”

Companies have made the best of the crisis, by "increasing their profit margins," he explains. “It’s always the workers who are sacrificed, but the need for workers is still there," he said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex, who will flesh out the president’s outline on Thursday, has already warned that the easing of lockdown restrictions will only be “slight.”

One thing is certain, Emmanuel Macron will be asking for people to accept their “individual responsibilities” and organize their Christmas in the most reasonable way possible. “Celebrate, yes, party on, non,” one of the ruling party ministers told the press.

Slow improvement 

The curfew and four weeks of a new lockdown has seen the virus slow down, with the peak of the second wave passed on 16 November.

On Monday, according to public health authorities, there were 4 452 new confirmed cases of Covid over a 24 hour period, the first time the figure has gone below 5,000 daily cases since 28 September.

This figure is closer to the target set by Macron mid-October, who said he wanted to see the infections drop to "between 3 000 à 5 000" before he would ease lockdown measures.

The number of patients in intensive care is at 4,438, a figure which has also dropped slightly since mid-November.

The death toll in France on Monday stood at 49,232 since the beginning of the epidemic.

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