President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday defended his decision to not impose a third lockdown at the end of January, against the advice of many scientists. He said: “We were right not to implement a lockdown in France at the end of January because we didn’t have the explosion of cases that every model predicted.
“I have no mea culpa to make, no regrets. We were right to do that.”
The comments sparked outrage in France as the country reported 41,869 new COVID-19 cases on Friday after registering 45,641 on Thursday and 35,088 a week ago, putting the hospital system under severe strain.
Relatives of people who died from COVID-19 took to social media to express their outrage.
Lionel Petitpas, whose wife, Joelle, died last year, said: “I started to listen to him, and it started to irritate me and I had to change the channel.
“It’s insane. Macron, the prime minister, they always think they are making the right decision. As a citizen, I state that no, because we are finding ourselves in the exact same situation as a year ago.”
He added: “What is the point of an economy if there is no one healthy enough left to run it?”
The number of people in intensive care units with COVID-19 rose by 57 to a 2021 high of 4,766, French health ministry data showed.
Three additional French regions including the Rhone department around the city of Lyon will be put under tightened COVID-19 restrictions for four weeks from midnight on Friday, the government announced on Thursday.
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Dr Mohamed El Hadi Djerad of the Pierre Beregovoy de Nevers Hospital in Burgundy told local broadcaster France-3: “We are at 100 percent occupation rate for nearly a month. We have stretched our capacities to the maximum.
“We are in a crisis situation.”
In stark contrast with the French President’s approach, German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted it was a “mistake” to announce new lockdown restrictions for a period of five days over the Easter break.
Ms Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states called on citizens to stay at home for five days over the Easter holidays, declaring April 1 and April 3 as extra “rest days”.
The measure would have meant all stores, including essential ones, closing for an extra day.
She said: “The idea of an Easter shutdown was drafted with the best of intentions. We urgently need to stop and reverse the third wave of the pandemic.”
But it was not possible to implement the hastily agreed measures so quickly.
Ms Merkel admitted: “This mistake is mine alone.”