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French President mulls extension of lockdown beyond 10 May

© Belga

French President Emmanuel Macron is considering keeping his country on lockdown until at least after 10 May, sources in his entourage said on Sunday even he pursued marathon consultations ahead of a solemn address to the nation on Monday evening.

However, the French Government has declined to comment on reports in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper that confinement measures imposed as a result of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, could continue until the end of May and that schools might open only in September.

For his fourth solemn address to the nation since the start of the pandemic, the French President is expected to lay out his plans for returning the country to normal activity after the lockdown, which has begun to have an effect on the number of severe Covid-19 cases.

Sources close to Macron said he “should give a date sometime in May for ending confinement, at least after the long weekend on 8-10 May, a date distant enough to enable us to understand that the partial, but extremely gradual, deconfinement can then begin.” The president should thus opt for a timeline that is distant enough to make people understand the effort that still needs to be made, but close enough to map out the way forward for France after the crisis, they said.

There will be no immediate return to normal activity, nor any question, for example, of reopening businesses and schools right away, but there has been no decision on delaying the reopening of schools until September either, the sources said.

As in each of his preceding solemn addresses since 12 March, Macron could also end by laying out more precisely his plans for “ the day after”, particularly the new priorities for his five-year term.

The French Head of State had held off his address until Monday to hold discussions with a wide range of stakeholders: doctors like Dr. Raoul, with whom he has been talking at least once a day, according to his close collaborators, as well as parliamentarians, associations and European counterparts.
“On these heavy decisions, there is a real will to unite and bring people together, by listening to opinions in the field directly,” a member of his entourage said.

On Sunday and Monday, Macron plans to speak with many doctors in the field, parliamentary speakers Gérard Larcher and Richard Ferrand, mayors from various regions, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others.

He is not expected to discuss very concrete decisions, such as the generalised imposition of masks, testing methods or contact tracing, which he usually leaves to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe or Health Minister Olivier Veran.

He could raise the issue of the closure of national or EU borders, even if European leaders are scheduled to discuss it at a virtual summit in late April.

A major challenge facing Macron is how to defuse increasing mistrust, according to opinion polls, over his handling of the crisis.

Public opinion has been critical, among other things, of the Government’s stand against generalising the wearing of face masks and its ability to import the masks it has promised.

The Brussels Times

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