Addressing the nation in a Monday televised address at the end of the lockdown’s fourth week, Macron said progress has been made in the fight against COVID-19, but the battle not yet won.
Following Italy in extending the lockdown but announcing no immediate easing of restrictive measures as in Spain, Macron said the tense situation in hospitals in Paris and eastern France meant there could be no let-up in the country.
Since March 17, France’s 67 million people have been ordered to stay at home except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or get some exercise on their own. The lockdown was originally scheduled to end on Tuesday.
“I fully understand the effort I’m asking from you,” Macron said, adding the current rules were working.
“When will we be able to return to a normal life? I would love to be able to answer you. But to be frank, I have to humbly tell you we don’t have definitive answers,” he said.
Schools and shops would progressively reopen on May 11, Macron said. But restaurants, hotels, cafes and cinemas would have to remain shut longer, he added. International arrivals from non-European countries will remain prohibited until further notice.
Macron, whose government has faced criticism over a shortage of face masks and testing kits, said that by May 11, France would be able to test anyone presenting COVID-19 symptoms and give nonprofessional face masks to the public.
Macron also said he had asked his government to present this week new financial aid for families and students in need.
France not prepared enough
Acknowledging his country had not been sufficiently prepared early on to face the challenges posed by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Macron appeared to seek a humble tone in contrast to the war-like rhetoric of his previous speeches.
“Were we prepared for this crisis? On the face of it, not enough. But we coped,” he said. “This moment, let’s be honest, has revealed cracks, shortages. Like every country in the world, we have lacked gloves, hand gel, we haven’t been able to give out as many masks as we wanted to our health professionals.”