Macron to address the nation as France’s Covid-19 infections drop

·2-min read

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce a reworking of the country’s Covid-19 lockdown rules in a televised speech Tuesday night following a drop in nationwide infections.

France is expected to start easing Covid-19 lockdown rules in the coming weeks, carrying out the process in three stages to avoid a new flareup in the pandemic, according to senior officials.

In his speech Tuesday, Macron is expected to announce an adjustment of restrictions that have been in place since October 30.

"Emmanuel Macron will give prospects over several weeks, especially on how we adjust our strategy. What is at stake is adapting lockdown rules as the health situation improves while avoiding a new flare-up in the epidemic," government spokesman Gabriel Attal told French weekly Le Journal Du Dimanche.

"There will be three steps to (lockdown) easing in view of the health situation and of risks tied to some businesses: a first step around December 1, then before the year-end holidays, and then from January 2021," Attal added.

Macron had said France's second national lockdown would last at least four weeks. Curbs include the closure of non-essential stores, restaurants and bars.

But with recent data showing France on track to rein in a surge in coronavirus infections, the government is under pressure from shops and businesses to ease restrictions in time for the Christmas shopping season, when many retailers make the bulk of their annual turnover.

"We had committed to allow them (shopkeepers) to reopen around December 1 if the health situation improved, which seems to be the case," Attal said.

Bars and restaurants, however, "will continue to experience restrictions", he added.

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Light at end of 'long, dark tunnel'

Macron’s address comes a day after drug firm AstraZeneca and Oxford University announced a vaccine in development had proved “very effective” in trials involving 23,000 people.

The announcement came after other trials of drugs developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna announced effectiveness above 90 percent.

The developments have provided a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe as the holiday season approaches.

While World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the latest batch of results as light at the end of the "long dark tunnel", he cautioned the world had to ensure drugs were distributed fairly.

"Every government rightly wants to do everything it can to protect its people," Tedros said. "But there is now a real risk that the poorest and most vulnerable will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines."

On Thursday, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said the country will win its battle against the coronavirus but it is a struggle that will take time, warning the lockdown was not yet over.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)