Macron calls two emergency government meetings as Covid-19 cases rocket in France

France's Elysée Palace announced on Monday evening that the president would host two emergency defence council meetings with ministers in the coming days ahead of a likely toughening of restrictions to battle the "brutal" second wave of coronavirus.

Macron calls two emergency government meetings as Covid-19 cases rocket in France
French President Emmanuel Macron (middle) flanked by his Prime Minister Jean Castex (left) and another government representative. Photo: AFP

Macron will first meet with ministers in the defence council on Tuesday morning, the Elysée said.

Then throughout the day the French Prime Minister Jean Castex will meet with the leaders of opposition political parties and parliamentary groups, followed by a meeting with union leaders on Tuesday evening.

Macron will hold a second defence council meeting on Wednesday morning, the Elysée said.

The meetings will focus on “the tougher measures under consideration to manage the health crisis,” an official in Castex's office told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

Given that the Covid-19 infections have rocketed in France in recent days – new record was set on Sunday with 52,000 cases reported following several days of cases topping 40,000 – the government is almost certain to announce new restrictions in the coming days.

Speculation is growing that despite vowing to do everything possible to avoid a second lockdown, the president may be left with no choice given the rise in hospital patient numbers.

The government meetings follow calls from scientists and health chiefs for tougher measures than the nighttime curfews currently imposed on two thirds of the population.

Jean-François Delfraissy, President of the Scientific Council set up to advise the government on their Covid-19 policies said on Tuesday the situation was “critical”.

“We knew there would be a second wave, but we have been shocked by the brutality of what's happened in the last 10 to 15 days,” he said.

“I don't think we have a choice anymore. We must re-confine,” said Eric Caumes, Head of the Infectious Diseases Department at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris on Monday

READ ALSO: Is a second lockdown in France now inevitable?

Member comments

  1. Stop with the meetings, they don’t save lives, show some balls and impose travel restrictions now but unfortunately I think it’s already too late because of the school holidays. He’s totally out of his depth and like the court jester in the UK has come to realise that being a country’s leader is more then just preening oneself for the cameras and trying to appease everyone.

  2. I disagree. Even if Macron makes the right decisions, if he does so without consulting opposition parties and trade unions he will be accused of being autocratic (he already has had this accusation levelled at him) and that will lose him what little support and goodwill he has. Much as politics should not get in the way of managing something like this pandemic, humans being selfish creatures, it unfortunately does and the situation has to be managed.

  3. Rob rubbish. The mark of a good statesman is the ability to make decisions that may not be liked by all. All this pandering to all sides is what makes “leaders” like Macron weak and not fit for purpose.

  4. Tarquin, that is in an ideal world. In this, leaders like that get replaced with populist idiots like Trump and Johnson. Once that sort gets in it is near impossible to dislodge them.

  5. The only reason that the UK has lower figures is that they are not testing contacts in any methodical way – a lot of France’s positives are asymptomatic. However – it is very clear that people are not distancing any more!

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French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.