President Macron’s Covid-19 Crisis – BBC News

[Music] we're over a year into this pandemic and this is the point that france has reached a third lockdown i know how difficult the efforts i'm asking of you are i know the consequences for our country and for your lives the infection rate is going up hospitalizations are going up the daily death toll remains stubbornly high and the message from doctors is stark there are warnings of intensive care units being 400 percent over capacity and of the most difficult decisions having to be made there is this sophie's choice scenario which has begun to weigh on us we are scheduled to shut down half of the operating rooms meaning you must choose between two sick people to be operated on the head of intensive care at another hospital says the outlook is worse than frightening april is going to be dreadful new national restrictions will now apply across france and frustration is building this research by yougov spoke to people in 22 countries about satisfaction with their government's handling of the pandemic france is second lowest just above germany so why has france reached this point well as with most things with covet 19 it's a potent mix of personalities politics history and science and i'm going to look at the government's strategy this year at the vaccine rollout at the leadership of president macron and how the government's approached this from the very start because its goal has always been clear mr deputy we have innovated and we have implemented until the end measures to contain the virus maintain maximum individual and collective freedoms for the french people back in march of last year france moved swiftly closing schools and bringing in a national lockdown in the summer as cases fell restrictions were eased a second wave then followed in the autumn as did another temporary lockdown arguably though the most crucial decisions were made in january by this point cases in the uk were rising rapidly because of a new variant it went on to have one of the strictest lockdowns in the world but despite the clear threat of this new variant france did not follow suit there was no lockdown it's a decision that's now fiercely criticized by some the paris magazine marianne has written this piece which we've translated in which it asks how can one label a government that knowingly decides to let nearly 300 of its citizens die every day even though it could prevent it and if that's marianne magazine there's also this from the head of infectious diseases at one paris hospital we started to feel this wave coming about two weeks ago and we've been warning the government that it would come in march because the modeling we had were quite bad unfortunately the government didn't listen to us not listening is the accusation but president macron is having none of that we were right not to implement a lockdown at the end of january because we didn't have the explosion of cases that every model predicted there won't be a mere culprit from me i have no remorse and won't acknowledge failure the president now though has admitted that some mistakes were made and if that's the issue of the decision not to lock down in january next we need to look at the vaccine rollout in the france of the battle over the next few weeks and months will be vaccination morning noon and night i will be mobilized the government will be mobilized and all of the nursing staff everywhere in france will be mobilized in this battle the problem is that vaccine roll out has not been going to plan this is how the magazine lapoint characterized the president's efforts mr macron riding a snail now the pace is now picking up but it's been a slow start for that vaccine rollout the european union and france itself was given 11 of adults at least one dose versus 45 percent in the uk 28 in the us and while there have been well documented problems with vaccine supply it's not just about that it's also about whether french people want the vaccine there are short-term and long-term factors here the short-term well the president set the tone in january by saying the early results we have are not encouraging for 60 to 65 year old people concerning astrazeneca we think that it's quasi-ineffective for people over 65 that wasn't and isn't true then in march france suspended the use of the vaccine without waiting for the european regulator's ruling then when the regulator said the jab was safe the suspension was cancelled doctors say all of this has had an impact the bbc's lucy williamson spoke to one patient in a paris icu 79 year old madeline lax arrived here after refusing the astrazeneca jab she didn't trust it with all her underlying conditions she told me but while waiting for the fisa one she caught covid has it changed her mind about the astrazeneca vaccine no she said then we have longer term factors which have nothing to do with astrazeneca france has one of the highest rates of vaccine skepticism in the world social science professor antoine bristiel has told reuters there is a strong correlation between trust and government and readiness to take a vaccine he goes on to argue france's deep mistrust of the political class was a french peculiarity that isn't found in other countries this is reiterated by the french historian laura henry van noy who points to the giles jean protests in 2019 he argues if the french distrust vaccines it's because they distrust their politicians the degree of vaccine skepticism bears out the crisis in democracy that's been brewing for the past 30 years for him vaccine skepticism and the giles jones come from the same place now of course france doesn't have a monopoly or mistrust of the political class but there's an argument that in france this mistrust has become wrapped up with historic decisions around healthcare this is yasmine sirhan of the atlantic the first was the revelations in the early 90s that the french government had knowingly distributed blood infected with hiv to hemophiliacs there was a row over the safety of hepatitis b vaccinations in the late 90s those were concerning fears that the jab was linked to a rise in multiple sclerosis cases finally there was the last pandemic the swine flu pandemic in 2009 in which the french government found itself in kind of an opposite problem that it has today it secured too many vaccines and many people were opposed to taking them because they didn't feel like it was big of an issue in france all of which has created attitudes towards vaccinations that some doctors say they've been seeing for years the french population has always been anti-vaccinations we see that here when we do the flu jabs it's a mess every year it's up to us as doctors to convince them that here the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages that's clear we do though need to be careful here and keep our eyes on the coveted vaccination rates because they're picking up fast in france there's increasing evidence that when push comes to shove the french skepticism is being trumped by a desire to see off covert 19.

As the paris based journalist john litchfield notes the french vaccine program is now humming along the daily first jabbing rate is now approaching that in britain it may be humming along but the start was slower than france wanted and if we've looked at the vaccine rollout and the decision in january to not lock down we can't consider france's predicament any further without focusing on the man in the middle of this the president he stuck in his reputation back in january on this idea of not shutting down schools and having a kind of light confinement a kind of third way typical macron third way and certainly critics are saying well you know that didn't work you're now doing what you we were urging you to do back then which to have a proper lockdown that's my colleague the bbc's hugh schofield he also describes how critics see an insufferable self-belief in the president but to macron's allies he's making smart decisions based on the facts have a look at this in politico emmanuel macron drauna's superman in front of the coronavirus sales with the headline it's a bird it's a plane it's emmanuel macron given the current situation in france's hospitals we can be confident the superman comparison will not work for everyone but the article tells us the president boldly brushed off the predictions of epidemiologists in ruling out a january lockdown there's a similar story in le monde under the headline how emanuel macron's entourage portrays a president who would have become an epidemiologist we're told macron's aides say he's so bright and has read so much that he's now france's top authority on coronavirus and can do without experts now we know mr macron's a confident guy and given that he created his own party from scratch ran for president and one he has some reason to be and he's often reveled in an almost old-fashioned grand version of leadership remember this in 2017 a vast ceremonial event at the palace of versailles entirely focused on him and his vision for france and this brand of ultra confident politics has largely served him well but there are risks to this approach when dealing with a virus that's indifferent to personality and with emmanuel macron's aide saying he's now an authority on the virus my mind did turn to this clip i like this stuff i really get it people are surprised that i understand it every one of these doctors said how do you know so much about this macron the educated trump is how tom mctague from the atlantic puts it tom's argument being that both men in very different ways have shown a confidence or arrogance depending on your view that's been humbled by this violence certainly their macho approach was clear when they met it was a handshake for the ages lasting close to 30 seconds and both men have since shown us there's a fine line between self-confidence as a political strength and a weakness donald trump landed on the wrong side of that equation he's out of office and just like mr trump emmanuel macron is juggling two intertwined considerations he wants to control the pandemic he also wants to get reelected next year and many believe that he's concluded just as donald trump did that to do that he has to protect the french economy reuters has reported that the biggest consideration according to a person familiar with macron's thinking was the economy macron and his team believed other eu countries with three or more lockdowns would recover more slowly the 2022 election is expected to be won or lost on how well france limits the economic fallout from the pandemic the parliamentary source said and if we put all of this together a mutating virus the slow starts the vaccine rollout the change in lockdown policy a looming election we start to understand the moment france has reached a moment of great uncertainty we can't pin down how long this wave will last will it last two three weeks or two three months we don't quite know there are many unknowns for france and from the very start president macron has been clear about the scale of the challenge this was last march we are at war a healthcare war we're not fighting an army or another nation but the enemy is here invisible and making progress and in his eyes emmanuel macron believes his leadership is what france needs in this war both the virus and in time the electorate will decide if that's the case [Music] you

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