Issued on: 14/07/2020 – 13:07
French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the pandemic and his goals for the future in a televised interview on Tuesday after hosting a Bastille Day ceremony that was scaled back due to the coronavirus.
For the first time since 1945, French authorities called off the annual military parade along the Champs-Élysées in Paris that usually marks the storming of the Bastille fortress on July 14, 1789, that launched the French Revolution. Just 2,000 soldiers – half the usual number – gathered at the Place de la Concorde.
The battle against the virus, which has claimed more than 30,000 lives in France, was the main focus of the official event in Paris as Macron sought to highlight France’s successes at a Bastille Day recalibrated to celebrate the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic.
Macron also chose to renew another tradition, the July 14 president’s interview, to detail his plans for surmounting the devastating social and economic crisis wrought by the Covid-19 outbreak. He abandoned the ritual after taking office three years ago with a pledge to shake up politics as usual, but his new government is now under pressure to prove it can rise to the unprecedented challenges it is facing.
Prominent doctors urged this week that face masks be mandatory indoors while authorities have warned the virus appears to spreading faster in several areas as people let down their guard following the easing of France’s lockdown, which began March 17 and began lifting on May 11.
Despite billions of euros pledged to minimise the economic damage caused by the pandemic, questions remain over how the government will foster recovery from a recession expected to destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Officials said the president would address the health crisis as well as several measures to revive economic growth.
His was also expected to set out his other priorities for the almost two years that remain before he faces re-election in 2022.
Macron’s critics have accused him of initially underestimating and then mishandling the medical crisis. He has limited himself to a few televised addresses since March, while his previous premier Édouard Philippe enjoyed a popularity boost over his perceived steady hand.
Soon after a cabinet re-shuffle last week that saw him take control of a revamped government, new Prime Minister Jean Castex riled unions by saying he would move quickly to finalise a controversial pensions overhaul that was suspended by the crisis.
Macron pushed ahead on the signature reform despite massive strikes over the winter that were fueled in part by the anti-government anger laid bare in the “Yellow Vest” protests of 2018 and 2019.
Later on Tuesday, parks near the Eiffel Tower will be closed to crowds for the Bastille Day fireworks in Paris. Most other cities have called off their shows altogether.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)