Update on the major coronavirus-related developments prior to President Macron’s address tonight

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The situation in France remains calm since the beginning of the crisis. The French population is rather disciplined, understanding and implementing the Government’s measures. At this point in time, the Government is succeeding in avoiding panic to rise in the country. President Emmanuel Macron will announce new measures to fight the outbreak and manage the consequences of the health crisis tonight at 8 pm.

At this stage, six Members of Parliament have been infected as well as two employees. The National Assembly (equivalent of the US Senate) is in standard recess for two weeks due to the mayoral elections to take place on March 15th and 22nd. In addition, the Senate forbade all plenary sessions. It means that the Parliament’s and therefore the Government’s agendas will most probably be disrupted in the coming weeks.

The epidemic continues to grow rapidly in the country with an average of 400 new cases per a day. The number of cases doubled since Friday and, according to health professionals, is not likely to stop in the coming days/weeks.

On Sunday, a third emergency cabinet meeting was held (chaired by President Macron) and followed by a declaration of the Minister of Health. Despite the acceleration of the number of cases, France remains until today at Stage 2 meaning that the Government’s top priority sticks around stopping the virus spreading and not to manage it on a national-scale for limiting its consequences (which is the purpose of Stage 3). Some measures were reassessed accordingly though:

  • Prohibition of gatherings whether indoor or outdoor up to 1,000 people (versus 5,000 indoors until now). A few exception will be issued in a list, which should include public demonstrations, competitive exams or public transportations;
  • Use of telemedicine is promoted and facilitated.

Please note that typical Stage 3 measures (school closure, prohibition of any kind of gatherings…) have already been applied in some zones at risk, essentially in areas in the Oise (North) and Haut-Rhin (East) department, where classrooms have been shut down. This strategy aims at limiting the confinement as much as possible and taking only customized measures to each specific situation.

Finally, please also note that the probability of moving to Stage 3 is still very likely (it was confirmed by the Government Spokesperson last week) but the Government wants to delay the move to the final phase as long as possible.

Sanitary situation:

  • The situation seems to be well-handled from a sanitary viewpoint. Several discussions we have had with hospital staff confirm that after the initial period of concerns, the latter are now fully focused on the instructions given by the public authorities and persuaded that the situation can be effectively managed, taking advantage of the previous experience of the SRAS in 2003 and preparation for the bird flu (H1N1) in 2009. Nonetheless, they anticipate that the management and the conditions would not be optimal with some difficult situations in the ER;
  • Until now, the health administration and staff considered that the epidemic should be managed without implementing drastic confinement measures like Italy has been doing in the past few days. For them, it would not stop the epidemic but would put the health staff at risk. The main objective today is to protect the hospitals and medical’s staff and avoid contamination in the health facilities so that they can work in the most efficient manner;
  • Additionally, French healthcare facilities are progressively triggering an emergency plan allowing to open additional nursing beds, recall staff, and deprogram planned operations (so far, only in zones at risk but more are ready to do it as well in the coming days).

Economic consequences:

  • The Minister of Economy stated that the economic consequences are likely to be far greater than anticipated, which is not a real surprise:
    • He declared that French 2020 growth could be below 1% GDP with important impacts on employment. Though, no precise figures will be put forward before April 15th;
    • Additionally, the French Central Bank already revised its first trimester 2020 growth forecast from 0.3 to 0.1% GDP;
  • The Minister of Economy reminded the measures that have been announced last week as well as new ones:

o   Measures announced last week:

  • Facilitation of recourse to partial unemployment;
  • Staggering the collection of social security contributions and taxes;
  • No penalty for late delivery of public market contracts.

o   New measures:

  • Wider loan guarantees from the French Investment Public Bank;
  • Direct tax relief for endangered enterprises.

These measures are already effective such as staggering the collection of social security’s contributions and taxes as well as short-time working which already concerned more than 3.600 enterprises with around 60.000 employees.

Coronavirus update:

  • 2,281 cases and 48 deaths have now officially been confirmed;
  • At this stage, 105 persons are in grave condition throughout the country;
  • All 13 mainland French regions have now been affected;
  • At this stage, 12th areas of contamination were reported;
  • Schools and nurseries will be closed for two weeks in the Haut-Rhin and Oise departments, France’s two most affected areas.