FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron reportedly has “no regrets” about delaying the Paris lockdown.
The leader ignored mounting pressure to tighten restrictions – despite the country facing a Covid “plane crash every day”.
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French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly has “no regrets” about delaying the Paris lockdown despite rising Covid cases[/caption]
PM Jean Castex this week announced lockdown restrictions in Paris and other areas[/caption]
PM Jean Castex this week plunged Paris into lockdown as France struggles under a deadly third wave of the virus.
He said the “time had come to consider new measures in Paris” as health authorities reported 34,998 new cases in a day of Covid-19 across France.
The country’s death toll has now risen to 91,706, according to the latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
And the health ministry said there were 4,246 patients in intensive care units with Covid-19, setting a four-month high.
But Macron stands by the decision to put lockdowns off for as long as possible, on the grounds that it bought some breathing space for the economy.
A source told Reuters: “If you’re asking me if there are regrets, no.”
Macron’s aides deployed a mantra in public and private: “Every day we avoid a lockdown is a day gained.”
He hoped he could steer the country out of the pandemic without the need to lock it down again.
His gamble was that if France could avoid a third large-scale lockdown, he could give the economy a chance to recover from a deep slowdown that, some in his circle felt, could soon replace the virus as the biggest challenge of his presidency.
French police officers patrol and control citizens in Paris during a strict lockdown[/caption]
Cases did fall slightly, but earlier this month one of France’s leading epidemiologists, Dominique Costagliola, told Reuters death rates were back to alarming levels.
She said: “It’s as if every day, there has been a fatal plane crash.
“So really, are the measures sufficient? I would say no.”
Costagliola does not advise the government on coronavirus, but those scientists who do say they never recommend policy decisions.
Interviews with six people close to Macron’s administration revealed how the French leader came under intensifying pressure to change course as the toll from the virus rose again.
In a meeting with Castex on Monday, Stanislas Guerini, head of the pro-Macron faction in parliament, said the effort to avoid a lockdown was starting to look like “obstinacy”, according to a parliamentary source close to Macron who was present.
The lockdown announcement also came amid dithering over the vaccine rollout across the EU.
Production delays, political infighting and public scepticism over the AstraZeneca jab have all slowed vaccinations down.
France’s lockdown announcement came amid dithering over the vaccine rollout across the EU[/caption]
Parisians packed trains leaving the capital on March 19 ahead of the new lockdown in the capital[/caption]
As the UK appears on course to easing restrictions and vaccinating all adults by early June, Europe appears to be heading in the opposite direction.
Like other EU countries, France has lagged far behind Britain in vaccinating its population, with only around 5.6 million people given the first dose of the vaccine so far, compared to more than 25.7 million in the UK.
Macron still hopes vaccinations can prevent the worst effects of the third wave, but suspension of the use of the AstraZeneca jab, announced on Monday over safety concerns, threatens to jeopardise the strategy.
France, Germany and Italy followed smaller EU nations such as Ireland and Estonia in banning the jab after around 40 patients had blood clots.
But AstraZeneca said the rate was actually LOWER than would be expected in the general population.
The European Medicines Agency confirmed there is “no indication” the AstraZeneca jab causes blood clots.
And in a dramatic U-turn, France and Italy announced they would resume use of the jab, after admitting the ban was politically motivated.
French Europe Minister Clement Beaune admitted the suspension heaped “political pressure” on AstraZeneca amid the ongoing supply dispute.
After the temporary halt of AstraZeneca jabs on Monday, German leaders have heaped pressure on the EU to approve Vladimir Putin’s Sputnik V vaccine.
Bavarian premier Markus Söder said: “It’s important to accelerate approval procedures, especially in the case of Sputnik.”
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He added that studies of the Russian jab showed it was “highly safe” and “in some cases better than vaccines which have already been approved”.
“We need to approve it quickly and efficiently, not get bogged down in the classic, bureaucratic details,” he said.
If approved, Sputnik would become the first non-Western coronavirus vaccine to be certified for use across the EU.