French and Riviera News Tuesday 14th April 2020

Lockdown in France extended to May 11th - French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that there will be an extension on the lockdown in order to continue attempts to curb the coronavirus outbreak until May 11th. He said progress had been made, but the battle was not yet won. He also said non-European borders would remain closed. Acknowledging his country had not been sufficiently prepared early on to face the challenges posed by the outbreak of the coronavirus, Macron said the unprecedented restrictions put in place were showing results. 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. 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 that by May 11th, France would be able to test anyone presenting COVID-19 symptoms. Schools and creches would progressively re-open. 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. The French government is expected to set out in detail the exact measures intended in the coming weeks.  

Reactions to Macron's speech - In reaction to the President's speech Charles-Ange Ginésy, president of the Alpes-Maritimes departmental council described it as "A message of confidence, but too vague". Adding that "I do not hide my disappointment, even if he succeeded in giving back a message of confidence to the French. On the economic level, it is too vague, no medium and long term perspective. Poverty should not do more damage than the virus. Finally, I was waiting for a clarification on the masks and the tests and this is not the case."

Meanwhile Renaud Muselier, president of the Paca regional council accused the speech of being "Light on the health aspect". He said that "the announcements on festivals, restaurants, bars, are important, but we know the economic difficulties that this will cause in our region. On the health sid