Mr Macron’s strategy reflected the reality that, in the French system of government, power is intensely concentrated in the hands of the president. As in previous key moments of the pandemic, rumors had circulated for days before Mr Macron’s speech on Wednesday, with ministers admitting, albeit anonymously, to French media that they had no idea measures that would be implemented.
In recent months, the Élysée has tried to fine-tune Mr Macron’s handling of the viral crisis, leaving him behind when problems arose and bringing him closer when things improved.
This strategy has taken strange twists and turns at times, such as when those around him this week appeared to be trying to push back against criticism that Mr Macron had ignored the advice of epidemiologists. The president was much less dependent on experts than he had been a year earlier, they said, because he had studied and read a lot about the virus.
“The president has acquired real expertise on health issues,” said his Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, quoted in Le Monde. “It is not an inaccessible subject for an intellect like his, given the considerable time he devoted to it for several months.
Le Monde recounted how relatives of Mr. Macron “were impressed by the mastery of the Head of State, who has followed a lot of research on the subject of the coronavirus”. According to the article, Mr. Macron was now able to “challenge” his own Minister of Health and his experts.