Speech from April 13th at 20h02
“Françaises, Français, my fellow countrymen,
We’re having a hard time. We are all feeling fear, anguish for our parents, for ourselves in the face of this fearsome, invisible, unpredictable virus.
Fatigue and weariness for some, grief and sorrow for others. This period is even more difficult to live through when we live together in a cramped apartment, when we do not have at home the means of communication necessary to learn, to have fun, to exchange. It is even more difficult to live when the tensions are there, when the risks of violence in the family are part of daily life and we all realise, during this period, the loneliness and sadness of our elders.
And yet, thanks to our efforts, we have made progress every day. Our public servants and health care workers, doctors, nurses, orderlies, paramedics, first-aid workers, our military, our firefighters, our pharmacists have given all their energy to saving lives and providing care in this frontline. They have held on. The French hospitals managed to treat everyone who came to them. These days, these weeks have been and will remain the honour of our caregivers, both in the city and in the hospital.
In the second line, our farmers, our teachers, our lorry drivers, delivery drivers, electricians, stock handlers, cashiers, our garbage collectors, security and cleaning staff, our civil servants, journalists, social workers, mayors and local elected officials, and I forget so many who were helped by so many French people who made the commitment. All of them have made it possible for life to go on deep down.
And each of you, in what I have called this third line, each of you by your civic-mindedness, by respecting the rules of containment, thanks also to the vigilance of our police and gendarmes, you have made the epidemic begin to mark time.
The results are there. Several regions have been spared. In the last few days, the number of people coming into intensive care has been decreasing. Hope is reborn. And tonight, I want to thank you very warmly for your dedication and to express my gratitude.
So, were we prepared for this crisis? Obviously, not enough, but we faced it in France as we did everywhere else. We therefore had to deal with the emergency, take difficult decisions based on partial, often changing information, and adapt constantly, because this virus was unknown and still carries many mysteries today.
The moment, let’s be honest, revealed flaws, inadequacies. Like all the countries of the world, we lacked gowns, gloves, hydro-alcoholic gels. We have not been able to distribute as many masks as we would have liked for our caregivers, for the people who care for our seniors, for nurses and home care workers.
As soon as these problems were identified, we mobilized – government, local authorities, industry, associations – to produce and acquire the necessary equipment. But I fully appreciate that, when you’re on the front lines, it’s hard to hear that a global shortage is preventing deliveries.
Orders are now being placed. Above all, our French companies and our workers have responded and production, as in wartime, has been set up: we have reopened lines to produce and we have requisitioned.
In three weeks time, we will, imagine, have multiplied by five the production of masks for our carers in France and we will have produced 10,000 additional respirators on our soil. These respirators, which are so valuable in intensive care. Thanks to these efforts, we will be able to cope and we will continue to distribute more equipment.
But like you, I have seen failures, still too much slowness, unnecessary procedures, weaknesses also in our logistics. We will draw all the consequences, in due course, when it comes to reorganising ourselves.
In recent weeks, let us be fair to our country, there have been some real successes: The doubling of the number of intensive care beds, which had never been achieved before, the unprecedented cooperation between the hospital, private clinics and the city’s medical services, the transfer of patients to the least affected regions, but also to Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, whom I would like to thank, the implementation of distance learning, the organization of solidarity chains in our communes, the success of all those who have fed us during these weeks without interruption, with commitment, the repatriation of several tens of thousands of French and European nationals from countries all over the world and support for French people abroad.
Very often, what had seemed impossible for years, we were able to do it in a few days. We have innovated, dared, acted as close to the ground as possible, many solutions have been found. We will have to remember this because these are all strengths for the future.
My dear compatriots, if I wished to address you this evening, after having consulted widely over the last few days, it is to tell you in all transparency what awaits us in the coming weeks and months.
I told you that hope is reborn, yes, but nothing can be taken for granted. In the eastern part of France, as in the Ile-de-France region, hospital services are saturated. Everywhere, in France and overseas, the system is under strain and the epidemic is not yet under control. We must therefore pursue our efforts and continue to apply the rules. The more they are respected, the more lives will be saved.
That is why the strictest containment must continue until Monday, 11 May. That is the only time when we can act effectively. This is the only way to further slow the spread of the virus, to find available resuscitation places and to allow our carers to rebuild their strength. Monday, May 11 will only be possible if we continue to be civic, responsible, to respect the rules and if the spread of the virus has indeed continued to slow down.
I am fully aware, as I say, of the effort I am asking you to make. Over the next four weeks, the rules set out by the government must continue to be followed. They are proving to be effective and must not be tightened or eased, but fully enforced. I ask all our elected representatives, whose importance I know in this period, I ask all our elected representatives, as the Republic foresees in this matter, to help ensure that these rules are the same everywhere on our soil. Curfews have been decided where it was useful, but we must not add prohibitions during the day.
For our daily life, we must continue when we go out to apply the “barrier gestures”: keep us at a distance and wash our hands. I also want to remind you that everyone who has a chronic illness or suffers from other illnesses must be able to continue to see their doctor. Because it is not only the virus that kills: extreme loneliness and the renunciation of other care can be just as dangerous.
I also hope that hospitals and old people’s homes can make it possible to organise visits to patients at the end of their lives for their loved ones, with the right protection, so that they can say goodbye to them.
During this phase of confinement, the country continues to live, fortunately. Some activities are forbidden, as they are incompatible with the sanitary rules. For all other economic sectors, when the safety of workers and contractors is well guaranteed, they must be able to produce and have largely done so for a month now.
For all those who need help during this period, the measures for partial unemployment for employees and financing for businesses will be extended and strengthened. They are unprecedented and already protect more than 8 million of our employees and many of our companies.
For craftsmen, shopkeepers, the liberal professions and entrepreneurs, the solidarity fund provides an initial response, but I know your anguish, I have heard it, I have read it: the charges that continue to fall, the bills of exchange, rents, loans, that is why I have asked the Government to greatly increase aid, to simplify it, to enable you to overcome this period. I hope that the banks will be able to postpone all maturities much more massively than they have done and the insurance companies must be in tune with this economic mobilization. I will be attentive to this.
There is therefore work to be done in the coming days to consolidate you economically during this period. Quickly, a specific plan will be implemented for the sectors which, like tourism, hotels, restaurants, culture and events, will be durably affected. Cancellations of charges and specific aids will be put in place.
For the most fragile and needy, these weeks are also very difficult. I would like to thank the mayors, local elected officials and associations that have mobilized strongly alongside the Government. I have asked the Government to go further and to provide without delay exceptional assistance to the most modest families with children to enable them to meet their basic needs. The most precarious students, who sometimes live far from their families, especially when they come from overseas, will also be helped.
From Wednesday, the Council of Ministers will decide on new financial resources and the government will provide all the necessary answers whenever necessary.
Next 11th May, my dear compatriots, will therefore be the beginning of a new stage. It will be progressive, and the rules can be adapted according to our results, because the primary objective remains the health of all French people. From 11 May onwards, we will gradually re-open crèches, schools, colleges and high schools.
This is a priority for me, because the current situation is leading to growing inequalities. Too many children, particularly in working-class neighbourhoods and in our countryside, are deprived of schooling without access to digital technology and cannot be helped in the same way by their parents. In this period, housing inequalities and inequalities between families are even more marked. That is why our children must be able to find their way back to school. The government, in consultation, will have to set up special rules: organise time and space differently, protect our teachers and our children well, with the necessary equipment.
For students in higher education, classes will not resume physically until the summer. The government will specify for each one the good organization that will be necessary, in particular for examinations and competitions.
On 11th May, it will also be a question of enabling as many people as possible to go back to work, to restart our industry, our businesses and our services. The government will prepare these re-openings without delay with the social partners so that rules can be established to protect employees at work. That is the priority.
Places with a public, such as restaurants, cafés and hotels, cinemas, theatres, concert halls and museums, however, will remain closed at this stage. Major festivals and events with large audiences will not be able to take place until at least mid-July. The situation will be assessed collectively from mid-May onwards, every week, to adapt things and give you visibility.
For their protection, we will ask the most vulnerable people, the elderly, the severely disabled, the chronically ill, to remain confined even after May 11th, at least initially. I know that this is a strong constraint. I am aware of what I am asking of you and we will, between now and 11th May, work to make this time more bearable for you. But we will have to try to stick to it to protect you, for your own sake.
We will have a new organisation from 11th May onwards to make this stage a success. The widest possible use of testing and detection is a privileged weapon to get out of containment at the right time. In the meantime, and in the coming weeks, we will continue to increase the number of tests performed every day. That is what has been done for the past two weeks. In the weeks to come, I have asked that these tests be performed first on our seniors, our caregivers and the most fragile. And that we continue to mobilize all means of testing everywhere, that is, all public and private laboratories.
On May 11th, we will be able to test anyone with symptoms. We are not going to test all French men and women; that would make no sense. But anyone with symptoms must be able to be tested. People with the virus can be quarantined, treated and monitored by a doctor.
To accompany this phase, several innovations are being worked on with some of our European partners, such as a dedicated digital application which, on a voluntary and anonymous basis, will make it possible to find out whether or not one has been in contact with an infected person. I am sure you have heard about it. The government will have to work on it, and we must leave no stone unturned, no innovation unturned. But I hope that, before 11th May, our parliaments will be able to debate it and that the competent authorities will be able to enlighten us. This epidemic cannot weaken our democracy, nor can it bite on a few freedoms.
Until further notice, our borders with non-European countries will remain closed. We will then deploy all necessary means to protect the population. In addition to the “barrier gestures” that you are familiar with and that you will have to continue to apply, from 11th May onwards the State, in conjunction with the mayors, will have to make it possible for every French person to obtain a mask for the general public. For the most exposed professions and for certain situations, such as in public transport, its use may become systematic.
This will be possible thanks to our imports and thanks to the formidable mobilization of entrepreneurs and employees throughout the territory to produce this type of mask on a massive scale.
Based on these principles, the government will present within a fortnight the post-May 11th plan and the details of the organization of our daily life. Regular meeting points will be held so that we can adapt the measures taken and together decide on a regular basis to adjust things.
So when, then, can we hope to see the final end of this ordeal? When will we be able to return to the life we had before? I know your questions and I share them. They are legitimate. I would so much like to be able to tell you everything and answer you on each of these questions. But in all honesty, in all humility, we don’t have a definitive answer to that.
Today, according to the first data that will soon be refined by what are called serological tests, a very small minority of French people have contracted Covid-19. This means that we are a long way from what the experts call herd immunity, that is to say, that moment when the virus stops circulating on its own because enough of us have had it.
That’s why the first way out of the epidemic is through vaccines. All the talent in the world, all the researchers in the world are working on this. France is recognized in this area and has excellent resources because it is undoubtedly the safest solution, even if it will take several months at least to implement it. Our country will invest even more heavily in research, and in the coming days I will be carrying out an initiative with many of our partners on your behalf to accelerate the work in progress.
The second track is treatment. We’ve been working on that from day one. There has been, I know, a lot of debate in the country. All options are being explored, and our country has the most clinical trials in Europe. I have been very keen myself to understand every option, to make sure that everything was tried as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. It’s not a question of giving a treatment if you’re not sure, but of doing all the clinical trials to ensure that all leads are pursued. And believe it or not, our doctors, our researchers are working hard. No lead is being overlooked, no lead will be overlooked. I’m committed to that.
So, tonight I am sharing with you what we know and what we don’t know. We will prevail in the end, but we will have months to live with the virus. With humility, we must today decide and act with clear-sightedness, yes, because look at Asia, where the virus seemed to have been defeated and it is coming back in many countries that are once again deciding to close their economies. We must therefore proceed with calm and courage.
But what I know, what I know at this moment, my dear compatriots, is that our Nation stands together, in solidarity, with a common goal. We were said to be an undisciplined people, and now we are abiding by some of the strictest rules and disciplines ever imposed on our people in times of peace.
We were said to be an exhausted, routine people, far from the momentum of the foundations, and now so many of you are competing with each other in dedication, in commitment to the unexpected threat of this menace.
Here we are all in solidarity, fraternal, united, fellow citizens of a country that is facing up to it. Citizens of a country that debates, that discusses, that continues to live its democratic life, but that remains united. And this evening, I want to share this pride with you, in the midst of this ordeal. This certain idea that made France is alive and well, alive and creative. And it must fill us with hope. In the weeks to come, the Government, the Parliament, our administration, with our mayors and local elected officials, will have to prepare for what lies ahead. For my part, I will try to raise our voice in Europe in order to achieve greater unity and solidarity. The first decisions have been in the right direction and we have pushed hard for this, whether it be the European Central Bank, the European Commission or the governments.
But we are at a moment of truth, however, which requires more ambition, more audacity, a moment of rebuilding. We must also know how to help our African neighbours to fight against the virus more effectively, to help them economically too by cancelling their debts on a massive scale. Yes, we will never win alone. Because today, in Bergamo, Madrid, Brussels, London, Beijing, New York, Algiers and Dakar, we are mourning the deaths of the same virus. So, while our world will no doubt become fragmented, it is our responsibility to build new solidarity and cooperation today. It will also be up to us, in the coming weeks, to prepare for the aftermath.
We will have to rebuild our stronger economy in order to produce and give full hope to our employees, our entrepreneurs, and maintain our financial independence. We will have to rebuild French agricultural, health, industrial and technological independence and greater strategic autonomy for our Europe. This will involve a massive plan for our health, our research, our seniors, among others.
We will also have to remember that our country, today, relies entirely on women and men whom our economies recognize and pay so poorly. “Social distinctions can only be based on common utility. The French wrote these words more than 200 years ago. Today, we must take up the torch and give full force to this principle. We will have to build a strategy where we will find the long time, the ability to plan, carbon sobriety, prevention and resilience that alone can help us deal with future crises.
These few things are obvious to us today, but they will not be enough. I will therefore come back to you to talk about this afterwards. The moment we are living through is an intimate and collective shaking. Let us know how to live it as such. It reminds us that we are vulnerable, we had probably forgotten that. Let’s not immediately seek confirmation of what we have always believed in. Let’s not. Let us know, in this moment, to think outside the box, outside ideologies, to reinvent ourselves – and me first.
There is an opportunity in this crisis to come together and prove our humanity, to build another project in harmony. A French project, a profound reason to live together. In the coming weeks, with all the components of our Nation, I will try to outline the path that makes this possible.
My dear compatriots, we will have better days and we will find Happy Days again. I am convinced of this. And the virtues that today allow us to hold on will be those that will help us to build the future, our solidarity, our confidence, our will.
So, take care of yourselves, take care of each other. We will stand. Long live the Republic. Long live France. »
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What a touching and positive presentation to the French countrymen. Yes, we here in the U.S. have to endure our leader and it has not been easy or comfortable.