After gambling France could dodge new COVID lockdown, Macron forced to back down
French President Emmanuel Macron met with top officials on Jan. 29 and revealed a surprise: despite the urgings of some senior ministers and independent scientists, he would try to steer the country out of the pandemic without locking it down again.
His gamble was that if France could avoid a third large-scale lockdown, he could give the economy a chance to recover from a deep slowdown that, some in his circle felt, could soon replace the virus as the biggest challenge of his presidency.
But the tactic is beginning to unravel, with intensive care units in some parts of France on the verge of overflowing with COVID-19 patients, coronavirus cases surging and his government announcing a new round of tougher restrictions on Thursday.
Interviews with six people close to Macron’s administration show how the French leader, having arrived at the decision to avoid another lockdown, came under intensifying pressure to change course as the toll from the virus rose again.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday, Stanislas Guerini, head of the pro-Macron faction in parliament, said the effort to avoid a lockdown was starting to look like “obstinacy”, according to a parliamentary source close to Macron who was present.
The presidential administration did not respond to a request for comment on the reasons behind Macron’s choices over COVID-19 restrictions. Two aides, speaking anonymously, said they still believed Macron had chosen the right course.
Macron’s decision to focus on economic challenges was not unique. Some European leaders have plotted a similar course, while others opted for tougher restrictions in the hope of reaping the financial rewards later.
The final bill for the coronavirus crisis has yet to be tallied, but it is already daunting…..read more