Official speech by Emmanuel Macron on March 12, 2020 : United France is our best asset in the troubled period we’re going through with Covid-19. We will hold. All of us together.
Disclaimer and warning: the text below is from an automatic translation, you can find the link to the original speech (in French) at the bottom of the article
“My fellow countrymen,
In recent weeks, our country has been facing the spread of a virus, Covid-19, which has affected several thousand of our fellow citizens. I have, of course, a warm and moving thought this evening, first and foremost, for the families and loved ones of our victims. This epidemic, which affects all continents and strikes all European countries, is the most serious health crisis that France has experienced in a century. In the vast majority of cases, Covid-19 is harmless, but the virus can have very serious consequences, especially for those of our compatriots who are elderly or affected by chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity or cancer.
For several weeks, we have been preparing and taking action. Hospital staff, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, the agents of the Samu and our hospitals, town doctors, all the staff of the public health service in France are committed with dedication and efficiency. If we have been able to delay the spread of the virus and limit severe cases, it is thanks to them because they have all responded. They have all agreed to take time out of their personal and family lives for our health. That is why, on your behalf, I would first of all like to express the nation’s gratitude this evening to these heroes in white coats, these thousands of admirable men and women who have no other compass than care, no other concern than human beings, our well-being, our lives, quite simply.
This evening, I also want to salute the composure you have shown. Faced with the spread of the virus, you may have felt concern, even anguish, for yourselves and your loved ones, and that is quite legitimate. All of you have been able to cope by not giving in to anger or panic. Better yet, by adopting the right gestures, you have slowed the spread of the virus and thus allowed our hospitals and caregivers to be better prepared. That’s what a great nation is all about. Women and men capable of placing the collective interest above all else, a human community that holds together by values: solidarity, fraternity.
However, my dear compatriots, I want to tell you this evening with great seriousness and lucidity, but also with the collective will that we adopt the right organization, we are only at the beginning of this epidemic. Throughout Europe, it is accelerating and intensifying. Faced with this, the absolute priority for our Nation will be our health. I will not compromise on anything.
One principle guides us in defining our actions, it has guided us from the beginning to anticipate this crisis and then to manage it for several weeks, and it must continue to do so: it is trust in science. It is to listen to those who know. Europe’s leading specialists spoke out this morning in an important publication. I have today, together with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health, convened our Scientific Monitoring Committee. We have in France the best virologists, the best epidemiologists, highly renowned specialists, clinicians too, people who are in the field and whom we have listened to, as we have been doing since day one. All of them have told us that despite our efforts to curb it, the virus continues to spread and is accelerating. We knew it, we feared it.
What is likely to happen is that the disease will affect the most vulnerable people first. Many of them will need appropriate hospital care, often respiratory assistance. That is why, and I will come back to this in a moment, we are taking very strong measures to massively increase our hospital capacity, because the challenge is to continue to treat other diseases as well. It is also to prepare for a possible second wave that will affect a little later, in much smaller numbers, younger people, who are a priori less exposed to the disease, but who will also need to be treated.
In this context, the urgent need is to protect our most vulnerable compatriots. The urgent need is to curb the epidemic in order to protect our hospitals, our emergency and resuscitation services, our carers who, as I have just explained to you, will have to treat more and more affected patients. These are our priorities. That is why we must continue to save time and follow those who are most fragile. Protecting the most vulnerable first. That is the top priority.
That is why tonight I am asking all people over the age of 70, those with chronic illnesses or respiratory problems, people with disabilities, to stay in their homes as much as possible. They can, of course, go out of their homes to do their shopping, to get some fresh air, but they must limit their contact as much as possible. In this context, I asked the scientists about our municipal elections, the first round of which will be held in a few days’ time. They consider that there is nothing stopping the French, even the most vulnerable, from going to the polls. I have also asked the Prime Minister, as he did again this morning, to consult widely with all the political families, and they have expressed the same will. But we must ensure strict compliance with the barrier gestures against the virus and with health recommendations. I have confidence in the mayors and in the civic-mindedness of each of you. I also know that town halls and state services have organised things well. Reinforced instructions will be given tomorrow so that our seniors don’t have to wait long, so that queues don’t form, so that distances are kept and so that these famous barrier measures are respected. But it is important, at this time, by following the advice of scientists as we have just done, to ensure the continuity of our democratic life and our institutions. The priority of today’s priorities is therefore to protect the weakest, those who are the first to be affected by this epidemic.
The second is to curb the epidemic. Why is that? The Minister of Health and the Director General of Health have explained this to you on several occasions: to prevent the accumulation of patients who will be in respiratory distress in our emergency and resuscitation services. We must continue to buy time, and to do so, I am going to ask you to continue to make sacrifices and rather to do more, but for our collective interest.
From Monday and until further notice, nurseries, schools, colleges, high schools and universities will be closed for one simple reason: our children and our youngest children, according to scientists, are the ones who seem to spread the virus most rapidly, even if, as far as children are concerned, they sometimes have no symptoms and, fortunately, today do not seem to be suffering from acute forms of the disease. This is both to protect them and to reduce the spread of the virus across our territory.
A day-care service will be set up region by region. We will find the right organisations so that the staff who are essential to managing the health crisis can have their children looked after and continue to go to work to protect and care for you. This organization will be worked on by the Government in the coming days with all the elected officials and all the people in charge on our territory.
Whenever possible, I ask companies to allow their employees to work remotely. The ministers have already announced it, we have developed telework a lot. We must continue this, intensify it as much as possible. Public transport will be maintained, because to stop it would be to block everything, including the possibility of health care. But here too, it is your responsibility that I appeal to you, and I invite all French people to limit their journeys to what is strictly necessary. The Government will also announce measures to limit gatherings as much as possible.
At the same time, our health system, particularly in the intensive care units, must prepare to receive more and more serious cases of Covid-19 and continue to treat other patients. Places must become available in hospitals. To this end, all national hospital capacities and the maximum number of doctors and nurses will be mobilized. We will also mobilize students and young retirees. Exceptional measures will be taken to this end. Many, moreover, have begun. I would like to thank them. A few days ago, at the Samu in Paris, I saw a magnificent, moving and exemplary mobilization, where students, a few months away from their exams, were there to answer calls for help, and where doctors who had just retired had returned to lend a hand. This is what we are going to collectively generalise by taking the right measures. At the same time, non-essential hospital care will be postponed, i.e. non-urgent operations, anything that can help us save time. Health is priceless. The Government will mobilize all the financial means necessary to provide assistance, to take care of the sick, to save lives whatever the cost. Many of the decisions we are taking, many of the changes we are making, we will keep them because we are also learning from this crisis, because our health workers are great innovators and mobilizers, and what we are doing, we will learn from them and come out with an even stronger health system.
The general mobilization is also that of our researchers. Numerous French and European programmes and clinical trials are underway to produce rapid, efficient and effective diagnostics in large quantities. We are going to improve things in this area, and at both French and European level, work has begun. Our professors, with the support of private players, are already working on several treatment avenues in Paris, Marseille and Lyon, among others. The protocols have begun. I hope that in the coming weeks and months we will have the first treatments that we will be able to generalise. Europe has all the assets to offer the world the antidote to Covid-19. Teams are also working to invent a vaccine. It won’t be available for several months, but it is a source of great hope. The mobilization of our French and European research is also on the agenda and I will continue to intensify it.
This ordeal also requires social mobilization towards the most deprived and fragile. The winter truce will be postponed for two months, and I ask the Government for exceptional measures, in this context, for the most fragile. Finally, the ordeal we are going through requires general economic mobilization. Already, restaurant owners, shopkeepers, craftsmen, hotel owners, professionals in the fields of tourism, culture, events and transport are suffering, I know. Entrepreneurs are worried about their order books, and all of you are wondering about your jobs, about your purchasing power. I know that, it is legitimate. With the decisions I have just announced this evening, this economic concern will obviously increase.
We will not add to the health difficulties the fear of bankruptcy for entrepreneurs, the anxiety of unemployment and difficult end of months for employees. We will therefore do everything we can to protect our employees and to protect our businesses, whatever the cost. In the coming days, an exceptional and massive short-time working scheme will be implemented. Initial announcements have been made by the ministers. We will go much further. The State will take charge of compensating employees forced to stay at home. I want us to be inspired by what the Germans have been able to implement, for example, with a system that is more generous and simpler than ours. I want us to be able to safeguard jobs and skills, that is to say, to ensure that employees can stay in the company, even if they are forced to stay at home, and that we pay them. I want us to be able to protect our self-employed as well. We will take all the necessary steps to provide this guarantee in economic terms.
All companies that wish to do so will be able to defer, without justification, without formality, without penalty, the payment of contributions and taxes due in March. We will then work on the necessary cancellation or rescheduling measures, but I know us collectively, it always takes too long to do that. I want simple measures for our economic strengths. The deadlines that are due in the next few days and weeks will be suspended for all those who need them. We will defend our businesses of all sizes. We will defend all workers. At the same time, I have asked the Government to prepare a national and European recovery plan that is consistent with our priorities and our commitments for the future.
We also need a European response. The Central Bank has already, today, announced its first decisions. Will they be sufficient? I do not think so. It will have to take new ones. But I will also be very clear with you this evening: we Europeans will not allow a financial and economic crisis to spread. We will react strongly and we will react quickly. All European governments must take decisions to support activity and then to revive it, whatever the cost. France will do so, and it is this line that I will take at the European level on your behalf. That is already what I did at yesterday’s exceptional Council meeting. I do not know what the financial markets will give in the next few days, and I will be just as clear. Europe will react in an organised, massive way to protect its economy. I also want us to be able to organise ourselves internationally, and I appeal to the responsibility of the G7 and G20 powers. As early as tomorrow, I will be talking to President TRUMP to propose to him an exceptional initiative between the members of the G7, since it is he who holds the presidency. It is not division that will make it possible to respond to what is now a global crisis, but rather our ability to see right and early together and to act together.
My dear compatriots, all these measures are necessary for the security of us all and I ask you to unite around them. A crisis of this magnitude cannot be overcome without a united front. A crisis of this magnitude cannot be overcome without great individual and collective discipline and unity. I hear voices in our country today that are going in all directions. Some are saying, “you are not going far enough” and would like to shut everything down and worry about everything, sometimes disproportionately, and others feel that this is not a risk for them. I have tried to give you tonight what must be the line of our entire nation. Today we must avoid two pitfalls, my dear compatriots.
On the one hand, nationalist withdrawal. This virus has no passport. We must join forces, coordinate our responses, cooperate. France is at work. European coordination is essential, and I will see to it. We will no doubt have measures to take, but they must be taken to reduce exchanges between the areas that are affected and those that are not. These are not necessarily national borders. We must not give in to any kind of facility, any kind of panic. We will no doubt have control measures and border closures to take, but they will have to be taken when they are relevant and they will have to be taken in Europe, on a European scale, because that is the scale on which we have built our freedoms and our protection.
The other pitfall would be individualistic withdrawal. Such trials can never be overcome alone. On the contrary, it is in solidarity, by saying we rather than thinking I, that we will rise to this immense challenge. That is why I want to tell you tonight that I am counting on you for the days, weeks and months to come. I am counting on you because the Government cannot do it alone, and because we are a nation. Everyone has a role to play. I am counting on you to respect the instructions that are and will be given by the authorities, and in particular these famous barrier gestures against the virus. Even today, they are still too little applied. This means washing your hands long enough with soap or hydro-alcoholic gels. It means saluting without kissing or shaking hands so as not to transmit the virus. It means standing at a distance of one metre. These gestures may seem harmless to you. They save lives, lives. That is why, my dear compatriots, I solemnly call on you to adopt them.
Each of us has a share in the protection of others, starting with our loved ones. I am counting on you too to take care of the most vulnerable of our compatriots, not to visit our elders. It is, I am well aware, a heartbreak. It is, however, necessary temporarily. Write, phone, get news, protect by limiting visits. I am counting on you, yes, to also help the neighbour who, as a caregiver, needs a childcare solution for his children to go to work and take care of others. I am counting on companies to help all employees who can work at home to do so. I am counting on all of us to invent new forms of solidarity in these times. In this respect, I am asking the Government to work with the social partners, with associations in this direction. This crisis must be an opportunity for a national mobilisation of solidarity between generations. We have the means to do so. There are already actions on the ground. We can do even more together.
I am obviously also counting on all our caregivers. I know everything they have already done, I know what they still have to do. The Government and I will be there, we will take full responsibility for you. I am thinking of all our carers in the hospital, who will have the most serious cases to treat but also many emergencies. I am thinking of the doctors, the nurses, all the carers who are also outside the hospital, who have mobilised themselves tremendously and whom we are going to call upon more and more in the weeks to come.
I know I can count on you. The Minister of Health will also have an opportunity in the next few hours to clarify the rules so that we can help you protect yourself against the virus. This is the respect we have for you, and it is obviously what the nation owes you. The rules will be clear for everyone, they will also be proportionate and explained.
I am counting on all of you to be a nation at heart. To awaken what is best in us, to reveal that generous soul which, in the past, has enabled France to face the most difficult trials.
My dear compatriots, tomorrow we will have to learn the lessons of the moment we are going through, to question the development model to which our world has been committed for decades and which reveals its flaws in broad daylight, to question the weaknesses of our democracies. What this pandemic is already revealing is that free health care, regardless of income, background or profession, and our welfare state are not costs or burdens but precious goods, indispensable assets when fate strikes. What this pandemic reveals is that there are goods and services that must be placed outside the laws of the market. Delegating our food, our protection, our ability to look after our living environment to others is madness. We must regain control of it, build even more than we already do a France, a sovereign Europe, a France and a Europe that firmly hold their destiny in their hands. The coming weeks and months will require decisions to break with this. I will take them.
But the time, today, is for the protection of our fellow citizens and the cohesion of the Nation. It is time for this sacred union, which consists in following the same path together, in not giving in to any panic, any fear, any ease, but in regaining the strength of spirit that is ours and that has enabled our people to overcome so many crises throughout history.
United France is our best asset in the troubled times we are going through. We will all stand together.
Long live the Republic!
Long live France! “
Source : original in french can be found at https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2020/03/12/adresse-aux-francais