France celebrates the heroes of the virus during the new Bastille Day

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PARIS (AP) – Ambulance drivers, supermarket cashiers, postal workers. Doctors who died while fighting COVID-19. France honors them all during its biggest national holiday on Tuesday, recalibrating the usual grand military parade on July 14 to celebrate the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s commemoration will also pay tribute to former President Charles de Gaulle, eight decades after the historic appeal he made to opponents of the French Nazi occupier who gave birth to the French Resistance.

But the battle against the virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 30,000 people in France, should be at the center of the official event in central Paris, while President Emmanuel Macron seeks to highlight France’s successes in the fight against its worst crisis since World War II. .

“This ceremony will be a symbol of the commitment of an entire nation,” Macron said in a speech to military officials on Monday. “It will also be a symbol of our resilience.”

Opposite the Place de la Concorde, the demonstrators plan to highlight the failures of France during the pandemic. It is expected that medical workers and others who have denounced the mask shortages and cost reductions that have left one of the best health systems in the world ill-prepared for the rampant spread of the virus.

The destination of their protest march was not chosen by chance: they must head towards Place de la Bastille, the former house of a royal prison which the rebels stormed on July 14, 1789, marking symbolically the start of the French Revolution.

During Tuesday’s main ceremony, fighter jets will paint the sky with blue-white and red smoke and will be joined by helicopters carrying COVID-19 patients in distress. A military group will sing the Marseille national anthem to 2,000 special guests.

This year, instead of world leaders or other dignitaries, these guests will be nurses, doctors, supermarket and nursing home workers, mask makers, laboratory technicians and others who have made advance France during its strict national foreclosure. The families of medical personnel who have died from the virus also have their place in the stands.

“Exceptionally, this year, our armies … will give way to women and men in hospital coats who have fought” the virus and who remain “the bulwark of the crisis,” said Macron.

He praised the French military for building a field hospital and transporting patients in specially equipped cargo planes or high-speed trains, and paid tribute to the volunteers who made it possible for “our nation to hold out the shot”.

Ordinary French citizens will not, however, be able to honor front-line workers in person, as the Paris ceremony is closed to the public, to prevent further viral infections. And the usual military parade on the Champs-Elysées is truncated to a smaller case.

Even the annual fireworks display on the Eiffel Tower will be largely reserved for viewers, as the city hall closes the heart of Paris, including the quays of the Seine and other districts where crowds usually gather on the day of the Bastille.

France has one of the highest virus mortality rates in the world, and scientists are announcing a potential resurgence as people abandon social distancing practices, organize dance parties and go on summer vacations.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, disseminated, rewritten or redistributed without authorization.

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