Covid fourth wave: What can we expect from Macron’s Monday TV appearance?

Over the 18 months of the pandemic, announcements that president Emmanuel Macron intends to address France live on TV have come to be viewed with dread and the expectation of extra health restrictions - but with Covid cases still relatively low, what can we expect from Monday night's speech?

Covid fourth wave: What can we expect from Macron's Monday TV appearance?
President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

Covid cases in France remain the lowest they have been in a year, but after weeks of falling, case numbers are now beginning to rise again.

Although the rise is as yet relatively small, there are fears over the faster-spreading and more transmissible delta variant of the virus, which over the weekend became the dominant strain in France and which has driven a huge increase in case numbers in the UK, as well as parts of Spain and Portugal.

Health experts now accept that a fourth wave, once predicted for the autumn, has already begun in France and an extra meeting of the Defence Council has been called for Monday morning.

It is against this context that the president’s Elysée Palace has announced that Macron will address the nation at 8pm on Monday. So what can we expect?


Previous TV appearances from the president have heralded a return to lockdown, but this seems very unlikely this time. Notwithstanding the concerns about the delta variant, case numbers remain low with a weekly average of 5,000 cases a day – previous lockdowns were imposed only when cases reached around 50,000 a day.

Hospitalisations remain low and the hope is that with a significant portion of the population vaccinated they will stay that way.

Data from the UK – which has been recording more than 35,000 cases a day but where a higher percentage of the population is vaccinated – shows an increase in hospitalisations for Covid, but a much lower increase than in previous waves of the virus.

Travel restrictions

France has a traffic light system in place which gives greater travel freedoms to fully vaccinated travellers. But with several of its neighbours, including the UK and Spain, recording worrying spikes in cases, it’s possible that tougher travel restrictions could be reimposed in an attempt to slow the spread of the delta variant.

READ ALSO How does France’s traffic light travel system work?

Europe minister Clément Beaune, speaking last week, advised the French to ‘avoid Portugal and Spain’ for holidays this summer.

Health passport extension

The French pass sanitaire (health passport) is already up and running and is used for access to larger events like concerts and sports matches, but the government is now said to be considering extending this to venues like cinemas, bars and cafés.

The health passport, available on the Tous Anti Covid app, can show proof that a person is either fully vaccinated, has recently recovered from Covid or has tested negative in the past 72 hours.

READ ALSO Where and when you need a health passport in France 

It was launched with a declaration that it would not be used for ‘everyday activities’ like going to the gym or a café, but faced with the possibility of a fourth wave, the government is now considering whether extending the health passport would be a way to avoid further closures or lockdown restrictions.

Mask rules

It’s been just a month since the mask rules in France were relaxed, making mask-wearing no longer compulsory in outdoor public spaces like the streets, although they remain the rule in all indoor public spaces.

READ ALSO Where do you still need to wear a mask?

However fears over the delta variant have lead some local authorities, including in the town of Nice, to reimpose mask-wearing in the street. It’s possible the president could bring the rule back on a nationwide basis, as another option to slow the spread of the virus while avoiding having to close down businesses again.

Compulsory vaccination

Another tricky question that the government has been wrestling with is making the Covid vaccine compulsory for certain groups.

A sensitive subject in a nation with a high level of vaccine scepticism, the idea of making the vaccine compulsory for healthcare workers has nevertheless been backed by various medical groups, while polls show that a majority of people are in favour of the idea.

The vaccine has been available for health workers since February, yet vaccination rates in healthworkers are lower than in the same age groups of the general population, with just 60 percent of healthcare assistants and carers in nursing homes fully vaccinated. 

French medical regulator Haute Autorité de la Santé over the weekend published an opinion that the vaccine should be made compulsory for all over 12s, but the final decision is the government’s.

Vaccine plea

Whatever the announcement on compulsory vaccination, it’s likely that the president will echo previous statements by ministers in urging people – particularly young people – to get vaccinated.

The health ministry has unveiled a package of measures aimed at making getting the vaccine easier, from walk-in vaccine centres to allowing people to get second dose appointments while on holiday, but the rate of first dose appointments has fallen in recent weeks as the French head off on holiday.

Of particular concern is the 20-29 age group, which is seeing a large rise in cases.

There has also been discussion of other measures intended to encourage people to get vaccinated, such as making ‘convenience Covid tests’ such as pre-travel tests free only for the fully vaccinated.

Other stuff

Elysée sources have told French media that the president will not only be speaking about the pandemic in this speech, but will be focusing on other topics, possibly laying out the framework of reforms he wants to make in the final months of his presidential term before elections in April 2022.

He is also expected to make an announcement on contentious pension reforms.

The Local will be following Macron’s announcement live, from 8pm, here.

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Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.