France’s Macron defends ‘democratic’ handling of Covid crisis
French President Emmanuel Macron rebuffed accusations that he’s handling the Covid-19 crisis in an authoritarian way on Wednesday and renewed his call for people to get vaccinated to beat the pandemic.
“Never before in our history was a crisis of such magnitude fought in such a democratic way,” Macron said at the beginning of a virtual defence cabinet meeting broadcast on French TV. The president blasted opponents, without naming them, for exploiting the pandemic “to win political market share.”
Macron’s comments followed a fourth consecutive weekend of demonstrations in major French cities against new measures that make access to restaurants, museums and virtually all activities conditional on proof of vaccination or a recent negative test.
People’s status is displayed in a so-called health pass, or vaccine passport, that the government says is the only way to enable a return to normal life.
While some protesters claim the measures are dictatorial, there has been a jump in vaccine take-up since they were announced in July. Two-thirds of French citizens age 12 and over are now fully vaccinated, according to government data.
While vaccination rates are high in France, many French overseas territories are seeing infections skyrocket as vaccine take-up remains low and the more contagious delta variant is spreading quickly.
The fact that only about 20% of those age 12 and above are fully vaccinated in the West Indies, compared with almost 66% in France, is “cruel proof” that jabs are the most efficient tool against Covid-19, Macron said.
While he noted a slowdown in people booking vaccination appointments in recent days, the president insisted that he wants “at least to achieve” a goal of 50 million first injections by the end of August, up from 45.3 million people who have so far had at least one dose.
“Today, we thus face a situation, especially in Guadeloupe and Martinique, that is dramatic,” the president said, adding that hospitals are already saturated in the two overseas territories.
At least 100 ICU beds are needed for Guadeloupe alone, the minister for overseas territories, Sebastien Lecornu, said on Tuesday. Macron said 231 healthcare workers and 70 firefighters had traveled from France to the West Indies on Tuesday to help.
”The health crisis is not behind us,” Macron said. “It is very clear that we will live with this virus for several months yet.”
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