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Macron ‘never suggested resigning’ says French presidential office

The Elysée Palace on Thursday denied claims in a media report that French President Emmanuel Macron was planning to step down to call a general election.

Macron 'never suggested resigning' says French presidential office
French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP

“We deny this report. The president never suggested he would resign,” the president's office said.

The Elysée Palace statement followed a media report in the French newspaper Le Figaro, which claimed Macron had made the shock announcement while speaking at a videoconference with party donors in London.

Citing one of the people present at the conference, which took place about two weeks ago, Le Figaro said Macron told participants that a new election would reinforce his legitimacy and destabilise his opponents.

“I'm sure to win because there's no competition,” Macron reportedly said.

Le Figaro also cited an unnamed Elysée Palace official, who said: “We're entering a phase of reflection and consultations, where everything is being considered.”

The official added that Macron's decision could come “in the coming weeks or months”.

But the Elysée Palace said the president “never took part in a videoconference with donors.”

 

Macron's party La République En Marche (LREM) lost its absolute majority in parliament last month after several MPs defected to form independent groups, a public reproach that was all the more jarring amid the government's calls for “unity” during the COVID-19 crisis.

The party is now bracing for another setback in a second round of municipal elections set for June 28th, with opinion polls showing its candidates are unlikely to capture any major city, including Paris.

The battle for Paris long looked to be a tight race between three main candidates, until LREM's Benjamin Griveaux dropped out of the race after a Russian performance artist posted intimate pictures of him online.

ANALYSIS: Does the Griveaux scandal mean it's now open season on French politicians' sex lives?

Even Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, one of the LREM's strongest personas, is facing a tough battle to regain his seat as mayor of the northern port city of Le Havre.

A cabinet reshuffle is expected to be in the works as Macron seeks fresh momentum for the final two years of his term.

The coronavirus outbreak also stalled Macron's flagship policy reforms, including the controversial pensions overhaul that sparked a mass-strikes last winter.

The president plans a televised national address on Sunday night, his fourth since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

READ ALSO: What can we expect from Macron's speech?

Another speech could be scheduled after the June 28th elections, to lay out Macron's projects through 2022, his office said Thursday.

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COVID-19

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

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

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

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The government’s Covid vaccine adviser Alain Fischer told France Info that he was in favour of making face masks compulsory on public transport again and said it is ‘being discussed” at government level.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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