France readying ‘historic’ multi-billion euro package to save Air France and Renault

France said on Friday it was readying a "historic" package of multi-billion euro loans to help carmaker Renault and flag-carrier Air France through the crisis caused by the coronavirus.

France readying 'historic' multi-billion euro package to save Air France and Renault

For Air France, a seven  billion euro ($7.5 billion) package is planned and for Renault five billion euro ($5.4 billion), Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced.

He said the package was needed to save Air France amid an unprecedented industry crisis but warned the money would come with strings attached, with the airline notably having to improve its environmental credentials.

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For Air France the loan package is made up of four billion euros in bank loans guaranteed by the state and a three billion euro loan direct from the state, he told TF1 television.

“We need to save our national company and the 350,000 direct and indirect employees affected,” he said, while describing the plan as “historic support”.

“We are behind Air France, behind the employees of Air France to guarantee our independence and save jobs,” he added, while denying that nationalisation was on the cards.

But he warned that the help was not a “blank cheque” and would come with “conditions” linked to its profitabilty but also environmental factors.

“Air France should become the most environmentally respectful airline in the planet. This is the most important condition for me. “Air France needs to present a plan for reducing CO2 emissions and transforming its fleet to be less polluting,” he said.

In The Hague, Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra announced the government plans to support KLM with an aid package worth between two to four billion euros.

“We are currently working out the exact form and details,” the finance minister said Friday. 

'Crisis will last years' 

For Renault, a five billion euro ($5.4 billion) bank loan package guaranteed by the state is being worked on, Le Maire said.

“What is at stake here is our automobile industry. Renault is an industrial flagship that belongs to our culture and history,” he added.

The French state retains shareholdings in both Renault and Air France of 15 and 14.3 percent respectively.

Le Maire had previously warned that he expects GDP in France to contract 8 percent this year due to the effects of the lockdown against the coronavirus which is due to last in France until May 11.

“This crisis is historic. It will last years. It will be long. It will be difficult. I want every businessperson to know that… the state will be beside them,” he added.

He said France would do everything “to save its companies and start again with an economy that is more respectful for the environment.”

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French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With France in the middle of a new wave of Covid-19, the country's health minister has urged the public to once again wear face masks on public transport and in crowded spaces.

French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With cases on the rise again, French Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon said she is “[asking] the French to put masks back on in transport” in an interview with RTL on Monday, 

For the time being, however, she stressed it was just advice, rather than an obligation, and masks have in fact been recommended on public transport since the legal requirement to wear them was lifted in May. 

However with France reporting over 50,000 daily cases of Covid-19 the government is clearly concerned by the current wave of the pandemic.

Bourguignon said that “we must protect ourselves and protect others,” adding that wearing a mask is “a civic gesture.”

She urged people to don their masks as soon as they see a crowded train or station.

READ MORE: Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

In addition to public transport, Bourguignon is also asking the French to once again mask-up in “all crowded, enclosed areas.”

Currently, masks are only required in hospitals, health centres and places that have vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. They are recommended in crowded spaces where it is impossible to practice social distancing.