Macron says France's Covid-19 lockdown to last until May 11
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French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday announced he was extending a virtual lockdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak until May 11, adding that progress had been made but the battle not yet won.
Acknowledging his country had not been sufficiently prepared early on to face the challenges posed by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Macron said the unprecedented restrictions put in place were showing results.
"The epidemic is starting to slow down. The results are there," Macron said in a televised address to the nation. "Thanks to your efforts, every day we have made progress."
"But our country was not sufficiently ready for this crisis. We will all draw all the consequences," Macron said.
Macron's prime time address came as France ended a fourth week under lockdown, with residents ordered to stay at home except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or get some exercise on their own.
"I fully understand the effort I'm asking from you," the French president said. "When will we be able to return to a normal life? I would love to be able to answer you. But to be frank, I have to humbly tell you we don't have definitive answers."
Macron said that schools and creches would progressively re-open from May 11, but restaurants, hotels, cafes and cinemas will have to remain shut longer. Universities are unlikely to resume any classes or testing until the summer, he added.
Older and vulnerable people will have to continue to stay home and the government will provide face masks to others when they venture outside, the French president said.
"For the most exposed workers and in certain situations such as public transport, their use could become systematic," Macron said. "May 11 will be the start of a new phase. It will be progressive and the rules can be adapted according to our results."
🇫🇷🔊🇫🇷 The devil is in the detail of Macron's speech. So says out political expert @fifthandahalf as he told me how Macron gave the overview, and it'll be interesting now to see how the whole govn responds with concrete steps. #France #Macron #CoronavirusFrance #coronavirus #F24 pic.twitter.com/aYv3sCfrXp— Stuart Norval (@StuartNorval) April 14, 2020
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After a relentless increase until the first week of April, the number of patients in French hospitals' intensive care units has started to decline, prompting health authorities to call a plateau in the deadly epidemic.
But if French hospitals are just about coping, helped by a massive effort to transfer patients by plane, helicopter or even high-speed train from hospitals in the east and Paris to the west, nursing homes have been overwhelmed.
By Monday, the coronavirus had claimed 14,967 lives in France, the fourth-highest death toll in the world, with more than 98,076 confirmed cases, according to official figures.
Macron said testing capacities would be ramped up so that anyone showing symptoms can be diagnosed when the lockdown measures are eased on May 11. Those testing positive will be placed in quarantine — a measure doctors have urged as a key method for containing the outbreak.
The government will also work on developing an app for phones that could identify people who had come into contact with an infected person.
The French, long accustomed to being told their high taxes paid for the "best healthcare in the world," have been dismayed by the rationing of critical drugs, face masks and equipment and have watched with envy the situation in neighbouring Germany.
Although Macron's popularity initially shot up after he followed Italy and Spain in introducing drastic curbs on public life, his government has faced accusations of failing to address a shortage of masks and testing kits.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)
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