French president says 'health crisis not behind'

Macron defends health restrictions to counter delicate situation due to Delta strain of coronavirus.

French president says 'health crisis not behind'

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday strongly defended the recently enforced anti-COVID restrictions at public and commercial places against the unvaccinated people, as he evoked a “delicate health situation” due to the impact of the Delta variant.

"The health crisis is very clearly not behind us. ... We will live with this virus for several more months," said Macron, addressing a news conference at the start of a health council meeting.

The vaccination and health pass measures have allowed a large number of public places to stay open in the face of the big progression of the virus, he noted, adding that the private sector was more than willing to impose the restrictions as “collective responsibility” was the only way to fight the pandemic. “We had no other choice but to put these constraints, because it was that or new curfews, new confinements, new closures.”

From Monday, the French government began the extension of the health pass that requires all adults to prove they are completely vaccinated or are not infected with COVID-19 through a recent PCR or antigen test result for entering public places. It has also mandated vaccination for all nursing and non-nursing staff working at medical and health facilities like hospitals, nursing homes, and elderly care homes.

Several thousand French people have rallied against the health initiatives over the last month branding them as “dictatorial” and “against the freedom of choice.” Refuting such accusations, Macron said “no crisis of such magnitude has been fought so democratically."

Besides France, the New York city in the US, as well as Canada, Denmark, and several other European countries have announced similar measures to be displayed as a proof for entry into public places like restaurants, cafes, museums, and commercial centers.

So far, 37.8 million French people, accounting for over 50% of the population, have been completely vaccinated.

Macron stressed that mass vaccination was the only effective means to deal with new mutations like the contagious Delta variant and cited the “cruel demonstration” in the French overseas territories of the West Indies where less than 20% of the adult population is vaccinated.

The overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique in particular are facing a crisis due to the outbreak of the Delta variant and battling a “dramatic situation” due to the emergency scenario, he said.

France has dispatched health care workers and aid to the overseas islands as hospitals in both locations are overwhelmed with serious COVID-19 cases.