Confused messages fuel backlash against lockdown in France – POLITICO


PARIS – When announcing a new coronavirus lockdown in France, President Emmanuel Macron said the government had learned lessons from the first wave.

But a series of straightforward mistakes by his government make it a tough sell. According to a YouGov poll published on Wednesday, 73% of French people say they find communications inconsistent during the second lockdown. Only 29% said they trusted the government to handle the second wave.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Tuesday announced a curfew in Paris which was contradicted within an hour by the Prime Minister’s office, among other communication blunders.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Prime Minister Jean Castex debated which products and stores should be considered “essential” during the lockdown (and therefore remain open).

Essential vs. non-essential

Responding to an outcry from politicians and academics in favor of small independent bookstores, deemed non-essential, the government barred large chain stores from selling books last week.

The decision opened a Pandora’s Box, forcing Le Maire and Castex to ban large retailers from selling all “non-essentials” such as toys, makeup or clothing.

Critics say the move is unlikely to help smaller traders fight for survival and more likely to benefit giants such as Amazon.

This has also added to other foreclosure headaches for retailers.

“We sell toothpaste and mascara next door cannot be sold,” Jacques Creyssel, general delegate of the federation of large retailers, told AFP.

” It’s a mess! »Declared Michel-Edouard Leclerc, head of the E.Leclerc distribution cooperative. “I’m sorry for the store staff, they deserved better than this prank.”

The government is trying to defend its record by comparing its decisions to those of other European countries.

“If you need further proof that they are necessary, please be aware that they are also taken by most of our European neighbors as well as by countries in different oceans as the virus progresses,” said the Minister of Health Olivier Véran to the opposition parties at the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The mayoress of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has been one of the strongest voices among the protests in favor of bookstores.

“She should say this to caregivers who are struggling, overwhelmed and afraid that they will not be able to admit all patients in the days to come,” Attal said Tuesday.

Small town mayors are also defiant. According to government figures, 71 of them have issued legally dubious city orders to allow non-essential businesses to open over the past week. They were challenged before the administrative court by the French state, and some of them are already suspended.

The government is also facing strong criticism over the security measures (or lack thereof) in schools.

The Snes-FSU, the main union for middle and high school teachers, has issued a one-week strike notice to allow teachers who do not feel safe from the virus at their school to go on strike. The union posted photos of cramped school rooms on social media in recent days.

“We are, in the world, one of the countries which have been most successful in getting students back to school, and that is a good thing,” the Minister of Education told the National Assembly on Tuesday. , Jean-Michel Blanquer.

Even if the French agree on the need for a second lockdown, Jean-Daniel Lévy, an analyst at the Harris Interactive polling institute, observed that “their dissatisfaction concerns the implementation rather than the general orientation”.

As the second wave continues, the measures taken by the government are still slow to show their effects – a new record of more than 52,000 cases in 24 hours was recorded on Monday and the COVID-19 pandemic “is accelerating significantly” in France , according to the government agency Public Health France.

Some 430 people have died of the disease in the past 24 hours and 2,716 patients have been admitted to intensive care units in the past week.


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