Emmanuel Macron announced Thursday the closure from Monday of schools in France in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country where however the first round of municipal elections will be held as scheduled on Sunday under “strict” health conditions.
With 61 dead and 2,876 contaminations, France is the second epidemic focus of the coronavirus in Europe, a virus that appeared in China in December before spreading around the world, pushing many countries to adopt drastic measures to try to curb the contagion .
Faced with the “most serious health crisis that France has known in a century”, the urgency is to protect our most vulnerable compatriots, stressed the French head of state in a solemn television address of about twenty minutes to the Elysee.
All people over the age of 70, as well as those suffering from chronic diseases or disabilities, will therefore be invited to stay at home and limit their travel as much as possible, he announced.
The municipal ones finally maintained
However, “There is nothing to prevent the French, even the most vulnerable, from going to the polls on Sunday” for the first round of the municipal elections.
“But it will be necessary to ensure strict compliance with barrier gestures against the virus and health recommendations,” insisted Emmanuel Macron, the day after the publication of a circular including a series of drastic measures intended to reassure voters.
Like other European countries, nurseries, schools, colleges, high schools and universities will be closed from Monday and until further notice. “For a simple reason: our children and our youngest ones, according to scientists, are those who spread, it seems, the fastest the virus”, explained Emmanuel Macron.
A daycare service will be set up region by region to allow “personnel essential to the management of the health crisis can have their children looked after”.
“Whatever it costs”
Businesses are called upon to allow their employees to work remotely as much as possible. Regarding partial unemployment, the State will take charge of employees forced to stay at home and all companies may postpone without justification the payment of taxes and contributions due in March.
“Everything will be done to protect our employees and to protect our companies, whatever the cost”, assured Emmanuel Macron.
Public transport maintained
Public transport will be maintained – “because to stop it would be to block everything including the possibility of treatment” – but the French are invited to “limit their trips to what is strictly necessary”.
The winter break, during which the tenants cannot be evicted from their accommodation, will be extended by two months and “exceptional” measures will be taken for the most fragile, further detailed the President of the Republic.
Hospitals: non-essential services postponed
In hospitals, non-essential care will be postponed and the maximum number of doctors and carers will be mobilized, including students and young retirees, added the head of state, who considered that “lessons should be learned”. and “question the development model in which our world has engaged for decades”.
An unbalanced turn for Emmanuel Macron?
“What this pandemic reveals is that it is goods and services which must be placed outside the laws of the market “, he estimated.
“To delegate our food, our protection, our ability to care, our living environment, basically to others, is madness.”
Avoid the pitfall of “nationalist withdrawal”
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s announcement of the ban on American soil for nationals of 26 European countries, Emmanuel Macron announced that he would exchange with the American president on Friday “to offer him an exceptional initiative between G7 members since he is the president “.
“It is not the division that will resolve” this global crisis “, he said. “Today we must avoid the” pitfall “of nationalist withdrawal. This virus has no passport, we must join forces, coordinate a response, cooperate.”
“We will undoubtedly have control measures, border closings to be taken, but they will have to be taken when they are relevant and on a European scale,” he insisted.
Stage 3 postponed
The Head of State did not, however, go so far as to officially announce the transition to stage 3 of the epidemic, a passage however deemed “inexorable” by Prime Minister Édouard Philippe in early March, the Director General of Health, Jerôme Solomon evoking him a passage “in the coming days”.
Stage 2 of the epidemic management – which is to do everything possible to curb the spread of the virus – was launched on February 28. It precedes stage 3 which consists of mitigating the effects of the epidemic.
The measures announced on Thursday are in addition to those taken in recent weeks, including the ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people and the suspension of visits to the elderly in Ehpad (accommodation establishments for dependent elderly people).
The fight will cost tens of billions of euros, according to Le Maire
France plans to “tens of billions” of euros to cushion the economic shock caused by the coronavirus and “regretted” the border closure measures for travelers from Europe, taken by Donald Trump “without coordination” and which caused “chaos” in the markets.
“We will do all that is necessary and even more”, said Friday on RMC and BFMTV the Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, the day after the televised address by President Emmanuel Macron who announced measures to support the economy in the face of the crisis caused by the epidemic.
“It will cost us tens of billions of euros,” said Le Maire, who detailed several measures that will be taken to support businesses, particularly short-time working.
“It will probably be the most costly device for the State, but also the most effective”, because it allows companies not to lay off workers and to have all of their production capacities available as soon as the economic recovery takes hold. , he explained.
He recalled that companies could postpone charges and taxes due to March 15: “As long as the crisis lasts, there will be postponement,” he said. In what he presented as “a response strategy” to the crisis, Mr. Le Maire also mentioned “daily allowances for all single women who have to babysit” and “specific devices for assistants caregivers. “
Asked about the measures announced by President Donald Trump to close the American borders to travelers from Europe to fight against the coronavirus, the French minister “regretted” this decision which was “not coordinated with the allies and which causes a panic in the markets. “
“It is a health aberration and it is a shame because a health aberration causes political aberrations and causes economic chaos,” he said, adding that he would express his position to his American counterpart Steven Mnuchin during a telephone interview during the day.
“The message that all economic players receive perfectly is that there is no longer any coordination between Europe and the United States when it comes to strategic decisions”, he lamented. “And it is unfortunate for all of us”. Mr. Le Maire suddenly stressed the need for Europeans to “prepare a coordinated recovery plan (…) so that as soon as we are out of the crisis, the economic machine will restart as quickly as possible”.