The following is a translation of President Emmanuel Macron's address to the French people on the evening of Monday, April 13th.
My dear compatriots,
These are testing times for all French people. Confronted by the invisible, relentless, unpredictable threat that is the coronavirus, we feel a range of emotions; fear, concern for our parents and for ourselves even, sadness for those who have died and anger for others.
The situation is all the more difficult to deal with for those who live in cramped apartments, for those who do not have the means to stay in touch with others, stay informed or take their mind off things.
The situation is even worse for those from whom the lockdown comes with a heightened risk of domestic violence, and we all sympathize with the solitude and sadness of our elders.
And yet, thanks to our collective efforts, we have made progress every day. Our civil servants, healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, care-workers, ambulance drivers, EMTs, soldiers, firemen and women, and chemists on the front line are going above an beyond the call of duty to save lives and care for the sick. Their perseverance is an example to us all.
Our hospitals have held fast, succeeding in caring for all who have been admitted. During this emergency, we have been and will remain indebted to our magnificent medical staff, both in hospitals and out there in the community.
Our second line of defence has been the farmers, teachers, truck-drivers, delivery people, electricians, warehouse and supermarket workers, refuse collectors, security professionals, cleaning staff, journalists, social workers, elected officials... the list goes on. All of these people have played a crucial role in allowing life, as we know it, to continue.
And each one of us, in what I would call the third line of defence, through our civic responsibility, respect for the lockdown rules in cooperation with the police, have contributed to a flattening of the coronavirus curve.
The result is clear. Many regions might now be spared the worst. For a number of days now, the number of people in intensive care has gone down. Hope reigns. Tonight I would like to warmly thank you all for your dedication to the cause.
So, were we prepared, as a nation, to confront this crisis? All evidence points to the fact that we were not prepared enough, but in France as elsewhere, we have reacted in an exemplary fashion. We have had to adapt on the fly, take difficult decisions based on incomplete, rapidly evolving information, endlessly modify our approach, because the virus was an unknown quantity and to this day still holds many mysteries.
We have been tested and, to be frank, in many cases found wanting. Like in every country across the world, there has been a shortage of medical clothing and equipment such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. Unfortunately, we have not been able to supply as many masks as we would have liked to healthcare workers, those taking care of the elderly, nurses and home help. However, as soon as these problems were identified, we – central and local government, manufacturing industry, charities, foundations – set to work producing and acquiring the necessary material.
I am fully aware, however, that when you are on the frontline and desperately in need of equipment, it is difficult to swallow the excuse that everyone on the world is suffering the same shortages.
The orders have now been placed. Above all, our French companies and workers have risen to the occasion and are adapting their production, as in a time of war, to supply those fighting the virus with what they need.
Just take a second to appreciate that, over the next three weeks, we will have multiplied mask production for medical staff by five and will have built 10,000 additional ventilators right here in France. These ventilators are vitally important for those in intensive care, and we will continue to get them to where they are most needed.
Like you, I too have felt disappointment at the failures, frustratingly slow progress, red tape, ineffective processes, logistical weaknesses. There will be a time when we will take stock of all this so that we might be better organized in the future.
These last few weeks, let’s not forget, have also revealed the best of France. There have been important victories: the doubling of the number of intensive care beds to a never before reached level, unprecedented cooperation between hospitals, private clinics and GP surgeries, which has facilitated the transfer of patients to other parts of the country, and also to neighboring countries like Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria, who I thank, and the setting up of community outreach organizations, those that have worked to keep us fed for weeks on end, the repatriation in difficult circumstances of tens of thousands of French and Europeans stranded in the four corners of the Earth when the world went into lockdown.
Time and again since this emergency began, we have succeeded in making the seemingly impossible possible. With great daring, we have innovated, acted in the field, found solutions where none were available. We must remember our inner strength and collective resourcefulness – it will stand us in good stead for the future.
My fellow citizens of France, if I am addressing you this evening, it is because I have consulted and reflected over that past number of days and I want to be as transparent as possible with you about what is in store in the coming weeks and months.
There is hope, as I have said, but the battle is a long way from being won. In the east of France and in greater Paris, our hospitals are at saturation point. Throughout the land and in our overseas territories, the healthcare system is feeling the strain and the epidemic has not been brought under control. We need to redouble our efforts and continue to follow lockdown protocols. The more they are respected the more lives will be saved.
That is why our current strict confinement measures must remain in place until Monday, May 11th. It is our most effective means of combating the virus. It is what we, as a country, need to do to limit the spread of the virus, ensure there are enough hospital beds for all and rebuild our strength. A partial return to normal on May 11th will only be possible if we all continue to take our civic responsibilities seriously and obey the rules.
I am keenly aware that what I ask of you is not negligible, but during the next four weeks, the rules must continue to be obeyed. They are beginning to bear fruit and will not be strengthened nor loosened but adhered perfectly to. I would call on all elected officials to do their utmost to ensure that the rules are applied evenly across the country. You have the possibility to impose curfews where necessary, but I would urge you not to impose further restrictions on movement during daylight hours.
We must continue to practice social distancing and wash our hands. I would also remind you that those with chronic illness or other sicknesses should continue to consult their GPs, because the virus is not the only thing that can kill you at this time; solitude, neglecting your health in other ways, these can be deadly too.
I would also call upon hospitals and retirement homes to permit visits by next of kin to the dying, so that they might have a chance to say goodbye in person.
During the lockdown, we are fortunate that the country has continued to function. And whilst it’s true that certain activities have had to be banned for the greater good, those sectors of the economy that have been able to continue to function have largely been able to do so over the past month and will continue to do so in the month ahead. For those companies and workers requiring assistance during this period, furloughing measures and financing will be strengthened and extended. These unprecedented measures have already safeguarded the jobs of eight million workers and innumerable companies.
For artists, the self-employed and entrepreneurs, financial support funds set up by the government have provided relief, but I feel your pain, I know that for you, the bills continue to come in, the rent still has to be paid, repayments on loans taken out honored, this is why I have asked the government to do more to fast-track and streamline access to grant aid to help ensure that you get through this difficult period. I am calling on the banks to do more to be sympathetic when dealing with arrears than the have been to date and that goes for insurance companies too. We need to look at the economic big picture.
There is, as you can see, a lot of work to be done in the coming days to shore up the economy. Taskforces are working on plans of action for the tourism, hostelry, restaurant and culture and entertainment sectors, sectors which will feel the effects of Covid-19 for the foreseeable future. Fee cancellation and other specific measure will be put in place.
For the most fragile and least well-off members of society the past few weeks have been particularly difficult, and I would like to thank mayors and local authorities across the land for taking action to ensure that people continue to have what they need to survive. I am now asking them to go one better and provide emergency aid to low income families with children so they can access essential items. Students who have not been able to return home to their families and are currently living in isolation should also be helped.
From Wednesday, the council of ministers will decide on what new financial measures the government will put in place to respond to the needs of all.
May 11th will mark the beginning of a new phase of the emergency. The rules will progressively be adapted, results provided, because priority number one is and will remain the health of all French people. From this date on, we will in a staggered manner, reopen creches, primary schools and secondary schools. This is a priority for me because the current situation has served to deepen inequalities already present in the education system. Too many children in working class neighborhoods or in the countryside have been deprived of school, without access to remote learning, and parents cannot be expected to make up for the shortfall. During this period, housing and wage inequalities between families have been exacerbated. This is why we must be able to get children back into the classroom. The government is working on a way to do this while maximising protection for teachers and students, notably by providing the necessary equipment. For students in higher education, physical classes will not resume before the summer. The government will, here too, provide detailed guidelines, in particular with a view to exams, graduations and admissions.
On May 11th a significant proportion of the workforce will be able to return to their places of work. The government is working with the social partners to ensure that rules are established to protect salaried workers. This is the priority.
As for public gatherings, restaurants, hotels, cinemas, theaters, concert halls and museums will remain closed for the time being. Large-scale events, such as music festivals, will be reassessed mid May, but in any case will not be permitted until the middle of July at the earliest. From mid May on, the government will reassess the situation on a weekly basis and keep the nation informed.
For their own good, we would ask the most vulnerable sections of society, the elderly, the severely handicapped, those with chronic diseases etc, to remain in lockdown beyond May 11th, at least for the time being. I know this is asking a lot, but I will be working from now on to ensure that the situation is as bearable as possible. Please know that these measure are in your best interests.
By the time May 11th rolls round, we will have a new framework for dealing with the return to normal. Virus screening tests will be our primary weapon. In the coming weeks we will work on increasing the number of test kits in circulation. We have steadily increased testing over the past two weeks, and during the coming weeks I have asked that testing be carried out as a priority on the elderly, care workers and those with pre-existing conditions. We will need to continue to work on testing in public and private laboratories throughout France.
On May 11th we will be in a position to immediately test anyone presenting with symptoms. We will not be testing everyone in the country however, because that would be of no benefit, but those with symptoms can and will be tested. Those testing positive will be placed in quarantine, and receive follow up care from a doctor.
During this next phase of the emergency, certain innovations will be worked on at European level. As you are no doubt aware, one such innovation is an application dedicated to establishing whether or not a person has been in contacted with someone who has had the disease. This would be anonymous and done on a voluntary basis. While the government is not going to dismiss out of hand any innovation that can help save lives in the current emergency, I want to see our national assemblies debate this issue as under no circumstances should the coronavirus weaken our democracy or infringe on civil liberties.
Until all this is behind us, France’s borders with non-EU countries will remain closed. Once we are in a position to open up our borders, the best practices we have had in place to control the spread of the virus will continue to be applied, in order to protect the population.
From May 11th on, in concert with local authorities, we will ensure that any citizen that requires a mask, will be able to access one, for those in professions most at risk, as with users of public transport, the wearing a mask will be required. This measure will have only been made possible thanks to the continued efforts of those producing masks in factories all over France and overseas.
Over the next two weeks, the government will provide more details on the plan for post May 11th. There will be regular information on how we will proceed with all aspects of daily life. There will be continual consultation with various stakeholders to ensure flexibility throughout and so that we, as a society, can go forward in unison.
So, I know what you are thinking. You want to know how long until things get back to normal. I would love nothing more than to be able to tell you, but in all honesty, we simply don’t know.
Today, after analyses of initial lab data, which will soon be perfected through serological tests, I can inform you that only a small fraction of French people have contracted Covid-19. That means that we, as a nation, are a long way from having developed what the experts are calling herd immunity, when enough of us have had the virus that it no longer circulates.
This is why the best way out of this epidemic is to develop a vaccine. The best and brightest minds in medical science are working tirelessly to find one. France has some of the best virologists on the planet, but it seems certain that it will be months before we have a breakthrough. However our country is investing massively finding a vaccine, and I will be announcing the launch of an initiative in the coming days designed to accelerate research currently underway.
The second way out of our current situation is treatment, which we have been working on since day one. There has been, I know, a lot of debate in this country. All opinions are being heard and our country is carrying out the most clinical trials in Europe. I myself have explored all possible options, to ensure that they are carried out as efficiently and stringently as possible and in the shortest timeframe. There is no point in rolling out a treatment that we are not sure is effective. We must continue with clinical trials, but know that our researchers are unrelenting in their pursuit of a viable treatment. I can assure you that no stone will be left unturned.
So there you have it. With the information I have shared with you here tonight you now know what I know. We will win this thing, but it will mean living with the virus for many more months. With humility, I must tell you that we need to take decisions and act – despite the uncertainties we are confronted with – in a clear-headed manner. You only have to look at what has transpired in Asia, where the virus seemed to have been beaten, only to come back, to see that we are not out of the woods yet. We must march on with calm and courage.
But this much I know, and feel it strongly in this time of need, that out nation has stood up and been counted, we are pulling in the same direction towards a common goal. Some say that the French are an indisciplined lot, but just look at how we have responded as a nation to the most rigorous rules imposed on us in peacetime. Some claim that the French are a jaded people, stuck in their ways, who know longer hear the rallying cry of our founders, but voilà, in the face of this threat we have shown our true colors. Through our solidarity, brotherhood, and unity we have shown that we are a country that rises to the occasion. We are citizens of a nation that debates and discusses issues, continues to go down the democratic path and stays united. This evening, as we traverse the heart of this emergency, I would like to share with you my pride. The essence of what makes France great is alive and kicking, And it is that which should give us strength.
Over the coming weeks, your government, parliament, local authorities and elected representatives will be preparing the country for what’s to come. For my part, I will be carrying the flag for France at European level, during discussions that will be had concerning actions to be taken by the European Central Bank, The European Commission and individual members states.
We have arrived at a moment of truth, one which compels us to search inside for the ambition and audacity that will see Europe through. We must also provide assistance to our African neighbors as they fight the spread of the virus, as well as provide them with economic aid and cancel many of their debts.
We cannot win this fight alone. From Bergamo, Madrid, Brussels and London, to Beijing, New York, Algiers and Dakar, we are all mourning our dead, people killed by the same virus. At time when our world is fragmenting, it is up to all nations to find new ways of cooperating. We will be called upon to fashion the world of tomorrow.
Our economies will need to be rebuilt so they are stronger than ever, to give new hope and confidence to the workers of the world. France must keep its financial independence and rebuild our agricultural, sanitary, industrial and technological independence. We must have more autonomous strategy at European level. This will involve a massive overhaul of research and development, healthcare, the way we care for the elderly and ourselves.
We must also keep in mind that today, our country’s future is in the hands of those men and women which our economy values and pays so poorly. “Social distinctions can only be based on public utility.” These words, the French wrote down more than 200 years ago. We must pick up the baton and give new meaning to them. We must build a new world with a lower carbon footprint, one based on prevention and sustainability, so that we can cope with the crises our world has yet to face. These are important issues, but are not enough by themselves. There will be a time to speak about them after the current crisis. This crisis is personal for all of us and has brought home how vulnerable we all really are, something we had no doubt forgotten. This is not a time for falling back on comfortable ideology. We need to get off the beaten track, reinvent ourselves find new ways of living, not least of all me.
This crisis has presented us with an opportunity. An opportunity to reaffirm our humanity, built new projects based on consensus, a French project, a reason more profound for living together as one nation. In the coming weeks, in tandem with all sections of society, I task you with finding the path to that possible future.
My dear compatriots, better days lie ahead, happy days will be here again. I believe this to be true. And the virtues of solidarity, faith and selflessness we show today will stand as an example to future generations.
Take good care of yourselves and of each other. We shall overcome.
Long live the Republic, long live France.