• Julian Alaphilippe is congratulated by President Emmanuel Macron during the podium ceremony following stage 14 of the 106th Tour de France 2019 (Getty) (Getty Images Europe)Source: Getty Images Europe
French president Emmanuel Macron extends lockdown on events until mid-July.
14 Apr 2020 - 8:23 AM  UPDATED 14 Apr 2020 - 8:38 AM

Macron on Monday announced he was extending a virtual lockdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak until May 11 when schools and shops would progressively reopen, but restaurants, hotels, cafes and cinemas would remain shut and events not allowed until after mid-July. 

Since March 17, France’s 67 million people have been ordered to stay at home except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or get some exercise on their own. The lockdown was originally scheduled to end on Tuesday.

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. 

Following Italy in extending the lockdown but announcing no immediate easing of restrictive measures as in Spain, Macron said the tense situation in hospitals in Paris and eastern France meant there could be no let-up in the country. He also added progress had been made but the battle not yet won.

“I fully understand the effort I’m asking from you,” Macron told the nation in a televised address at the end of the lockdown’s fourth week, adding the current rules were working.

“When will we be able to return to a normal life? I would love to be able to answer you. But to be frank, I have to humbly tell you we don’t have definitive answers,” he said.

Macron, whose government has faced criticism over a shortage of face masks and testing kits, said that by May 11, France would be able to test anyone presenting COVID-19 symptoms and give nonprofessional face masks to the public.

Macron also said he had asked his government to present this week new financial aid for families and students in need.

Acknowledging his country had not been sufficiently prepared early on to face the challenges posed by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Macron appeared to seek a humble tone in contrast to the war-like rhetoric of his previous speeches.

“Were we prepared for this crisis? On the face of it, not enough. But we coped,” he said. “This moment, let’s be honest, has revealed cracks, shortages. Like every country in the world, we have lacked gloves, hand gel, we haven’t been able to give out as many masks as we wanted to our health professionals.”

The French, long accustomed to being told their high taxes paid for the “best healthcare in the world,” have been dismayed by the rationing of critical drugs, face masks and equipment and have watched with envy the situation in neighbouring Germany.

“We’ll have better days, and we’ll return to happy days,” Macron said.