Emmanuel Macron discusses the vaccine rollout in France
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And Bruno Le Maire has urged Brussels to speed up the implementation of its own economic stimulus plan – or risk the EU being left in the dust by the USA and China. France’s President on Wednesday confirmed the drastic new measures, which include a requirement for schools to close for three weeks, as he sought to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed.
He said: “These measures will impact economic growth in 2021. We are in the process of assessing it.
“There will be a new evaluation in the coming days.”
The new lockdown measures will force the temporary closure of 150,000 businesses at a cost of £9.4billion (€11billion) per month, Mr Le Maire added.
Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said yesterday he did not expect the new restrictions to have an impact on the bank’s forecast of 5.5 percent growth in 2021, provided the restrictions do not last beyond early May.
France reported more than 50,000 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday and 308 deaths, while the number of people in intensive care units jumped to 5,109.
Mr Le Maire also repeated calls for the European Union to accelerate the implementation of its economic stimulus plan.
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Referring to the £677millon coronavirus rescue package agreed last year, he warned: “Europe must understand that we must move fast and that the stimulus funds promised to European citizen must now arrive in member states.
“In 2022 or 2023 it will be too late. The Chinese and the Americans will be ahead of us.”
Though the 27-nation bloc agreed the landmark stimulus fund last summer, EU governments are still submitting detailed plans on how they aim to spend money from the fund, which many still need to ratify.
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During his address, Mr Macron suggested France was facing a “new situation” – and also appeared to blame the UK, with the rise in cases likely the result of the coronavirus variant which emerged in Kent.
He said: “In fact, from the first days of the month, we are now in a race.
“On one hand with the deployment of vaccinations which we’re hoping we will be able to get out us of the crisis and I’ll come back to that.
“And then secondly propagation throughout Europe of a new variant.
“This variant which was identified for the first time from our British neighbours at the end of last year.
“And to a certain extent, of course, gave rise to an epidemic within the epidemic and that is greater than last spring. “
Mr Macron added: “So, therefore, there’s no metropolitan region that now has been saved from it and it’s also more dangerous than in the autumn so it means that the virus is [not only] more contagious but also can kill.
“In fact, intensive care services are now having to deal with people who are healthy.
“44 percent of the patients who are in intensive care today are less than 65 years old.”
The situation has been compounded by the publication of a YouGov poll recently which revealed vaccine hesitancy in France is extremely high, with 61 percent of French respondents believing the AstraZeneca vaccine to be unsafe.
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