Macron says ‘too early to cry victory’ as France allows private gatherings of more than 10 people

France on Wednesday reported that its total number of intensive care patients had sunk below 2,500, the lowest level since March 24th, as the government said gatherings above 10 people would be permitted in private settings but remain banned in public areas.

Macron says 'too early to cry victory' as France allows private gatherings of more than 10 people
People in France can now gather in small groups of less than 10 people out in the open. Photo: AFP

For the first time in over seven weeks, France had less than 2,500 coronavirus patients registered in hospital intensive care units across the county, according to the national health agency.

The net drop in intensive care patients reflected a long trend of an easing of pressure on the country's hospitals, as France has seen a palpable impact of two months of strict, nationwide lockdown. 

The total recorded coronavirus death toll reached 27,074 as France reported 83 new deaths over the past 24 hours.

France on Monday, May 11th, began to lift the lockdown, with some shops reopening, some children returning to school, and people being able to move around freely without the need for a permission slip.

Private gatherings of more than 10 allowed

The good news on the hospital side came together with a loosening of the rule on how many people can gather at the same time in private.

On Wednesday evening, the interior ministry confirmed to French daily Le Parisien that the rule limiting gatherings to 10 people only concerned those in public settings.

Gatherings of more than 10 people in private areas such as homes would be tolerated.

This was a change to what Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on April 28th when he said the maximum of 10 people for gatherings would apply to “both the public and private sphere.” 

The government's plan had to pass through the Constitutional Council, the judicial institution that decides if a law is in accordance with the French constitution.

The Constitutional Council had the final text include that the restrictions on public gatherings “does not extend to premises used for residential purposes.”

The interior ministry cautioned the French must still demonstrate their “civic responsibility” and apply caution and strict hygiene measures to all a gatherings.

“Hygienic measures must be applied everywhere and under any circumstances, also in the private sphere,” the ministry told Le Parisien.

Macron: 'We're going in the right direction'

On Wednesday, day three of the gradual easing of the lockdown, French President Emmanuel Macron said the reopening was “generally going well.”

“We are going in the right direction,” he said during a meeting with prefects and regional authorities.

Hospitals registered 543 new coronavirus patients on Wednesday. Last week, the number was 833.

The total number of coronavirus patients in the country's hospital has gone down to 21,071 (against 23,983 one week ago).

President Macron said it was “too early to cry victory,” and that a first milestone would be reached on June 2nd.

“Depending on the evolution of the epidemic, we will be able to continue with a new phase of lifting the lockdown,” he said.

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French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.