French President Emmanuel Macron announced a third lockdown in France amid the pandemic and ordered schools closed for at least three weeks as France reels from a surge in Covid cases that’s overwhelming hospitals.
Macron wouldn’t be in such a pickle if the vaccine rollout had gone smoothly. But like most other EU countries — with notable exceptions — the number of vaccinated citizens has fallen far behind projections.
There’s little doubt that this surge of Covid cases is a threat. Hospitals are filling up all across Western Europe and national leaders are torn. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a lockdown last week but the pushback was so severe, she walked it back. But the problem isn’t going away. The German Intensive Care association is demanding Merkel initiate a “hard lockdown” nationwide.
Christian Karagiannidis, the DIVI’s scientific head, said about 1,000 additional patients had ended up in intensive care since the middle of March. On Wednesday, 3,680 people were in intensive care in Germany, DIVI data show.
“If this rate continues, we will reach the regular capacity limit in less than four weeks,” he told the Rheinische Post daily. “We are not overexaggerating. Our warnings are driven by the figures.”
The intensive care workers in Germany are calling for a minimum two-week lockdown with mandatory testing of students and teachers. Merkel, who at first won high praise from the lockdown crowd in the U.S. for the severity of her methods, now faces a growing revolt among German states that are pushing back against her increasingly draconian measures and her chaotic response.
In France, it’s inevitable that there will be some resistance to the lockdown orders.
Macron said restrictions already applying in the Paris region and elsewhere will be extended next week to the whole country, for at least one month. Under these restrictions, people are allowed to go outside for leisure, but within a 10-kilometer (6 miles) radius from their homes — and without socializing. Also, most non-essential shops are closed down.
In addition, Macron promised to speed up the vaccination campaign by giving access to all people aged 60 and over in mid-April, those aged 50 and over in mid-May and the rest of the population a month later. So far, France has prioritized people living in nursing homes and those aged 70 and over, as well as health care workers and people with serious health conditions.
France was already under some heavy restrictions, including all restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, and museums being closed since October. But French school kids have made out much better than children in most other Western countries.
Macron reaffirmed his views against a prolonged closure of schools as “increasing social inequalities.” According to figures reported by the U.N. education agency UNESCO, to this date, France has closed schools for 10 weeks in total since the start of the pandemic — compared to 27 weeks in the U.K., 28 weeks in Germany and 47 in the United States.
A debate is scheduled in parliament Thursday that will address the virus situation and the new measures.
Macron is following a “best practices” strategy, obeying the recommendations of public health officials who never tire of telling us that the end of the world is nigh unless we do what they say. Many of their recommendations are reasonable and sound, but enough studies have been done of these total lockdowns that suggest they are counterproductive at best.
It’s time for Macron and other EU leaders to realize that and change their strategy. Their citizens deserve better.