President Emmanuel Macron will speak on TV at 20:00 tonight to relay new restrictions against Covid-19 in France, with school closures and tightened lockdown rules among the options being discussed.
The speech will come following a meeting of the Defence council this morning.
Mes chers compatriotes,— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) March 31, 2021
Je m’adresserai à vous ce soir à 20h.
Three main scenarios are widely reported to be under discussion.
The new rules are expected to apply mainly - or firstly - to the 19 departments that are already under increased restrictions, but could apply to others, or nationwide, if necessary. They could come into force as early as this Friday, April 2.
First option - possible but unlikely
- No changes for the public
- Intensive care hospital staff from less-affected areas to move to areas under most pressure
- Extra intensive staff in private hospitals, which currently have 2,000 beds available nationwide
- Possible transfer of intensive care patients from oversaturated hospitals to less-affected ones, without family consent, but family and loved ones would be given financial aid to help with accommodation, transport, and chômage partiel (unemployment benefit for employed people who cannot work) to visit
Second option - possible
- School closures, or bringing forward school holiday dates to begin this Friday
- More employees asked to work from home
- Increased checks in workplaces
- Intensive care changes as above
Third option - so far considered less likely
- “Hard” lockdown
- Schools closed
- Attestation forms needed to go out for any reason
President Macron’s TV speech will be broadcast from 20:00, the Elysée has confirmed. It had been thought that any new rules would be announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex but the head of state will speak instead.
As one government source told FranceInfo: “If strong measures are taken, such as on schools, then it is up to the head of state to relay them.”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has already called for schools to close in Paris, saying that the situation is “disorganised and very serious”, with around 20,000 pupils already not in school due to illness or class closures.
Professor Antoine Flahault, Director of the Institute of Global Health at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, told RTL today: “Yes, there are still company canteens open, but schools definitely represent one of the major areas of contamination today, and they can lead to more than 40,000 people becoming infected every day in France.”
The possible closure of schools in France is seen as symbolic as the measure has repeatedly been described as a “last resort” by President Macron and Health Minister Olivier Véran.
Mr Castex met with Mr Macron on Tuesday evening to discuss the impact of stronger measures, which will have political, economic, and psychological repercussions.
A government source said: “Doing nothing with schools is not sustainable”, but said that rather than total closure, schools could impose restrictions on class numbers - with half of the pupils working from home, and half in school - as has been brought in for some lycées.
But the councillor said that no decision has yet been made and that all options were still possible.
Mr Castex is now expected to speak in parliament tomorrow, to outline the current health situation to MPs after Mr Macron’s speech. This will be followed by a parliamentary debate, and a vote on the decisions to be taken in response to the still-growing health crisis.