President Emmanuel Macron will hold a premiere television address on Wednesday night as the country awaits a government decision on new measures to halt a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, his office said Wednesday.
Macron has taken fire from opposition parties and some medical experts for refusing to impose a nationwide lockdown in the past, and many now expect schools to be closed in the hardest-hit regions to stop the outbreak.
The address at 20.00 (1800 GMT) will follow a weekly meeting with top cabinet officials on Wednesday morning to discuss the crisis, which has already seen authorities declare limited lock-in in 19 departments including the Paris region.
Macron’s latest address comes when the health situation in France deteriorated, putting hospitals under serious strain. The number of patients in intensive care rose to 5,072, beyond normal hospital capacity and the peak of the second wave in November. The number of cases has also increased sharply in recent days.
Nearly nine out of ten intensive care beds are currently occupied by Covid-19 and other health cases, according to the Ministry of Health, which says that “capacity growth continues in all regions.”
The deterioration has increased the pressure on Macron following his opposition to advice from public health experts to introduce stricter containment measures.
The official decision to keep schools open has drawn sharp criticism, especially in Paris’ neglected suburbs, where the rise in Covid-19 cases among teachers has sparked a debate over the benefits of France’s “open school” policy.
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Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo told French television station BFM that schools should be closed.
France has had a curfew every night since mid-December and in parts of the country, including Paris, the movement of citizens has been restricted and some unnecessary shops closed. Bars, restaurants and cinemas have been closed for several months.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)