Covid-19 France: Macron talks of ‘war’ as 112 more die

French President Macron has said that the Covid-19 epidemic is “a war” and that “we have not seen the full extent of what it will do”, as millions of masks are ordered, and 112 more people died in 24 hours.

22 March 2020
In an interview published today, President Macron said: "This is a war that is going to last."
By Connexion journalist

Mr Macron was speaking to newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche from the Élysée Palace, which has been closed to all meetings since March 16.

He said: “This is a war that is going to last. My role is of supervisor. I must be at the front, going to see the teams, in the hospitals, always prepared.

“We must face up to the health emergency, protect the weak, our elderly, and also our health system itself, but also take care of society, its stress, and its ability to live through this pandemic as one nation. It will be a test of solidarity for our democracy.”

Mr Macron added: “We will have to fight an unprecedented financial crisis, a real economic crisis. We have not seen the full extent of what this epidemic will do to us.”

Further official announcements on whether France is to extend the confinement period are expected on Monday (March 23), and the President said they would be made “at the right moment”. 

Read more: Report Monday re length of lockdown in France

He added: “I have always told the truth to the French on what we know, where we have been and where we are going. We have doubtless not been perfect, because we don’t [always] know everything.”

“Worse before it gets better”

Mr Macron’s interview comes as 112 more deaths were announced in 24 hours, at the most recent count (Saturday March 21). This brings the total number of deaths in France to 562. A total of 6,172 people are currently being treated in hospital.

Yesterday, health minister Olivier Véran said that the situation would “get worse before it gets better, before the effects of the confinement bear out”.

He said that confinement was the “key” to “beating the epidemic, and giving time to health workers to save lives. Being flippant, and not taking it seriously enough, is not only irresponsible, but dangerous for yourself and others.”


250 million masks

Mr Véran also confirmed that France had ordered 250 million masks, mainly for healthcare staff. These will be delivered gradually over the course of the next few weeks, the minister said, not counting extra supplies of masks set to be delivered by large businesses.

The current national stock of masks is at 86 million, including five million FFP2 (most protective), and the rest surgical standard. France can produce six million masks per week, Mr Véran said, rising to eight million from April.

He said: “We expect 24 million masks to be used per week. We have re-armed our production and logistics system.”

Mask priority will be given to health workers, staff in elderly care homes, police, and distribution workers.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has also said that 40 mask prototypes were “being tested” as a means to increase production levels.

Health minister Mr Véran added that the government was seeking to “quickly improve its testing strategy” to “rapidly increase the number of tests at the point where we lift confinement”.

Stricter measures

Meanwhile, some cities are imposing stricter measures on their populations. Perpignan (Pyrénées-Orientales, Occitanie) has imposed a curfew from 20h to 6h; Béziers (Hérault, Occitanie) has imposed one from 22h to 5h; and Nice (Alpes-Maritimes, ‎Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) has set one from 23h to 5h.

Read more: Nice to set up a curfew

A curfew is in place in Montpellier, and food markets have been closed. Public transport is limited to workers, and a gym has been turned into a food bank.

Current mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has called for “more severe confinement”. She said that food markets would stay open for now - despite reports that people were using them as normal, with little respect for distancing - but said that they should be “accompanied by drastic measures”.

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