Macron vows support for Italy as country logs its highest one-day death toll

Emmanuel Macron à l'Élysée le 26 mars 2020.
Emmanuel Macron à l'Élysée le 26 mars 2020. © Benoit Tessier, Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron sought on Saturday to win over Italians, saying in an interview with Italy’s leading newspapers that France was there to help as the country recorded its highest one-day death toll from the coronavirus pandemic.


France is alongside Italy,” Macron said in the interview with Italian newspapers La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera, and La Stampa, a day after Italy logged its worst one-day death toll yet – recording 969 new deaths.

France and Germany have both come under fire for initially declining to provide Rome with face masks and other equipment to help it handle the outbreak.

Rome turned instead for help to China, which sent an airplane full of masks and ventilators bearing “Forza Italia” stickers with small Chinese and Italian flags - and leaving a powerful impression on Italians.

“There is a lot of talk about Chinese or Russian aid, but why don’t we say that France and Germany have delivered 2 million masks and tens of thousands gowns to Italy?” Macron said.

“It is not sufficient, but this is just a start and we must not let ourselves be intoxicated with what our international partners and competitors say."

Macron also called for stronger budget solidarity in Europe.

“Europe must feel proud and strong, because it is. But it must indeed go much further. This is why I defend budget solidarity in the management of this crisis and of its consequences,” Macron added.

“What worries me is the illness of every man for himself: if we do not show solidarity, Italy, Spain or others would be able to say to their European partners: where have you been when we were at the front? I do not want this selfish and divided Europe”.

’Flashmobs have stopped’

Italy recorded 969 coronavirus-related deaths in 24 hours on Friday. Although Italian infection rates now seem to indicate a downward trend, the national health institute has said the country is not out of the woods yet, predicting that Italy's coronavirus pandemic could still peak in the next few days.

FRANCE 24’s Seema Gupta reported from Rome that the solidarity flashmobs carried out by quarantined Italians at the start of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown that went into force on March 9 “seem to have died down or stopped altogether” as the death toll has worsened.

“I think it’s not easy to deal with those depressing figures. It feels as if an entire village is just wiped out in the space of 24 hours and most people find it hard to grasp these immense numbers of deaths,” she said.

In a historic first, Pope Francis performed the rarely recited "Urbi et Orbi" blessing to an empty Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican on Friday.

"Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by."

"We find ourselves afraid and lost," he said, describing the coronavirus as a "tempest".




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