President Macron has called for the public to be “responsible” ahead of the February holidays as “lockdown is not inevitable”, as a press conference on the current health situation is set for tonight.
Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran will hold a press conference tonight at 18:00, detailing the current health situation in the country, and giving the first assessment of the “braking measures” that are currently in place.
The update comes after a meeting with the defence council yesterday, during which President Emmanuel Macron reiterated the importance of staying alert and maintaining physical distancing and barrier measures during the upcoming February holidays.
President Macron said: “Beware of inter-family meetings and large gatherings.”
Earlier in the week, the President said his aim was “to have a country as open as possible, despite the virus”, and called on the public to be “responsible”.
Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal has also said this week that the situation “remains fragile” and called on the public to be “alert” during the February school holidays, which begin for schools in Zone A this weekend (Saturday February 6).
He said: “The period of holidays that is approaching must be the subject of strong and increased vigilance for each and every one of us.”
He added that the public needed to work together nationally “to avoid another lockdown”.
He said: “We are choosing to do everything we can to avoid a lockdown. It’s clear that the current rules, especially the 18:00 curfew, are being respected. The situation is down to us.
“Lockdown is not an inevitability, and our collective efforts will allow us to avoid it.”
News source BFMTV has called the government’s stance “a risky bet” that has been questioned by some opposition MPs and scientists, with results depending on the “responsibility of the public”.
It comes after Mr Castex said that Christmas and the festive season had not led to an explosion in cases “thanks to the public’s responsible behaviour”.
One government source has even suggested that the February holidays could lead to a slowing in the virus spread, as children and young people will not be attending school, collège or lycée.
Professor Pascal Crépey, researcher at public health establishment l'École des hautes études en santé publique in Rennes, told BFMTV: “We saw that the Toussaint holidays had a beneficial effect, [but not confining now] is a risk that I hope will pay off.
He added that he believed that the “current measures are not enough”.
Expect the unexpected
The President and Junior Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne have both confirmed that while vigilance is called for over the holiday period, no physical limitations or bans on travel have so far been introduced.
But Mr Lemoyne was clear that this could change quickly if need be.
He told BFMTV: “For the moment, the public can travel,” but added that “the unexpected is always to be expected when it comes to the virus”.
He said: “If, at a given moment, we see that the data is soaring and extra measures must be taken, we will need people to come back from holiday.”
This year, February holidays in France will last from February 6 to March 8, depending on the Zone. Zone A begins this weekend. Zone B will begin on February 20, and Zone C on February 13.
Mr Lemoyne said: “We are in [early] February, and people are asking me about March 8. But one month ago, on January 1, we had barely discovered the UK variant [in France]. But look at its growth since then. One month is a very long time.
“We will keep the public informed as regularly as possible because we know how complicated [holidays and planning] can be in terms of organisation.”