As virus rebounds in France, Macron bristles at border rules
Travelling to family gatherings and dance parties blamed for fuelling the recent rise in cases
VILLENEUVE-LA-GARENNE, France — French President Emmanuel Macron urged European neighbours to better co-ordinate cross-border virus restrictions as infections were on the rebound — and as multiple countries imposed tests or quarantines on visitors from France.
Amid worries that France could become a new virus hotspot, Macron defended his government’s push to restart the economy and its handling of the post-lockdown period. Over the summer, French people travelled around the country for family gatherings and dance parties blamed for fueling the recent rise in cases.
“Our country needs to…learn to live with the virus” in order to repair the economy, finance welfare aid like temporary jobless benefits, and educate its children, he said.
Paris imposed mask requirements everywhere in public starting Friday, and a fifth of French regions are now considered “red zones” where the virus is actively circulating. More than 6,000 new infections were reported Aug. 27, up from several hundred a day in May and June.
But hospitalizations and deaths remain relatively low, and the government is sticking to plans to reopen all its schools, and the Tour de France is starting its three-week trek around the country Saturday.
Now that Britain, Germany and Belgium have imposed new restrictions on people arriving from all or parts of France, Macron called for better European co-ordination.
“Let’s have the same criteria,” he said. “Let’s not repeat the errors of March,” when chaotic unilateral border closures left lines of trucks stuck on roads and travellers stranded.
He said it made “no sense” to close borders, particularly for millions of workers within the EU’s travel-free zone who cross borders to work.
Speaking through a mask, he admitted that masks are “bothersome, annoying” but called it “a reasonable constraint that we should accept for a certain time” to revive the economy.
He also promised 15 billion euros ($17.8 billion) in state investment in projects to bring jobs and manufacturing back to France. He spoke after inaugurating a new production site at the Seqens pharmaceutical plant north of Paris.
France suffered shortages of masks, medicines and other medical supplies at the height of the virus crisis, notably because of its dependence on suppliers in China.