French President Emmanuel Macron hailed a “first victory” against the coronavirus crisis while also promising to draw lessons from the impact of the outbreak on France economy and health system.
In a live 20-minute televised address from the Elysee Palace, Macron announced that the whole of mainland France is now in the so-called “green zone”, including the Ile de France region, which saw some of the worst rates of infection.
This means that cafés and restaurants in Paris will be allowed to reopen on Monday (June 15), nearly two weeks later than in the rest of the country.
France’s borders with other European Union member states will also reopen on Monday, Macron said, while borders with countries outside the bloc “where the epidemic has been controlled” will reopen on July 1.
But travellers from Spain and the UK will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days, in parallel with current regulations in the two countries.
Finally, he said that every pre-schooler and pupil under the age of 16 will be required to go back to school on June 22.
“We are going to get some of our art de vivre back, our taste, our freedom. In short, we are going to get France back,” Macron said.
“This does not mean that the virus is gone and that we can completely lower our guard. We will have to respect physical distancing rules for a long time to come.
“The summer of 2020 will not be a summer like any other and we will have to keep watch over the evolution of the epidemic,” he added.
For the French leader, the priority will be to “rebuild a strong, ecologic, sovereign and fair economy”.
To do so the country must first “draw all the lessons” from the pandemic, he stressed.
“This ordeal also revealed our flaws, our weaknesses: our dependence on other continents to obtain certain products, our cumbersome organisation, our social and territorial inequalities,” he said.
He ruled out raising taxes to finance the recovery and said negotiations were underway with unions and companies to ensure that as many jobs as possible are saved.
The EU will also have its role to play for the country to boost the economy, Macron went on, saying the bloc, after a difficult start, “hoisted itself up to the moment”.
He described the Franco-German proposal to finance a bloc-wide recovery fund by pooling debt as “an unprecedented step in our European adventure and the consolidation of an independent Europe which gives itself the means to assert its identity, its culture, its uniqueness against China, the United States and the world order we know.”
The French leader also commented on anti-racism protests sparked by the death last month of African American George Floyd while in police custody.
He announced a new focus on equal opportunity and promised that the authorities would be “intractable in the face of racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination”.
On the debate over statues and monuments which anti-racism protesters have targeted during the protest, Macron said: “I tell you very clearly tonight, my dear compatriots, the Republic will not erase any trace or any name from its history”.
Instead, we must lucidly look together at our whole history, all our memories, and our relationship with Africa in particular” without “revisiting or denying who we are” in order to build a future with the continent across the Mediterannean, he continued.
He also backed France’s law enforcement agencies, which, he said, “deserve the support of the authorities and the recognition of the nation”.
Protesters have also denounced police violence which prompted Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe to unveil new measures last week.
Philippe banned the use of chokeholds to subdue suspects and announced that any officer accused of racism would be automatically suspended pending an investigation.
Macron added that he will address the nation again in July to “outline a new path, launch the first actions” to tackle the crises.
“We must collectively do differently”, he concluded, warning: “We have historic challenges ahead of us.”