Emmanuel Macron's Speech to the French Republic

March 18, 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron gave a moving speech to the French Republic on Monday March 16th where he announced the severity of the COVID-19 mobilization and the government's response to ease the burden on healthcare personnel, businesses and citizens alike. "We are at war", he declared as he explained a series of measures from expanded unemployment to the creation of rural miliary hospitals and minimum daycare service for nurses and doctors. 

View the full English text of his speech below. 

French citizens, my fellow countrymen. Thursday evening, I addressed you to evoke a public health crisis across the country. Until present, the COVID-19 epidemic was, perhaps, for certain among you, a faraway idea. It has become an immediate and pressing reality. The government has taken, as I announced, firm measures to slow down the propagation of the virus. Daycares, schools, middle schools, high schools and universities are now closed. Saturday evening, restaurants, bars, all commerce that is non-essential to the life of the nation, have also closed their doors. Gatherings of more than 100 people have been forbidden. Never has France had to take such decisions, clearly exceptional, clearly temporary, during times of peace. These measures have been taken in an organized and prepared way, on the basis of scientific recommendations and with one goal: protect us against the propagation of the virus.

Thursday, during the day, a scientific and political consensus was formed to maintain the first round of municipal elections and I have taken, with the Prime Minister, the decision to maintain this vote. Yesterday, Sunday, voting operations have been upheld. Tonight, I want to thank government services, the mayors, and the ensemble of mayoral services, all those who kept the polls open and provided for the organization of this vote. I also want to warmly salute citizens who, despite the context, went to the polls and strictly observed the sanitary instructions, barrier methods against the virus. Tonight, I also want to congratulate the candidates elected in the first round. Nearly 30,000 municipalities out of 35,000 after this first round, now have a city council.

But, at the same time, while healthcare workers and emergency medical professionals alert us to the gravity of the situation, we have also seen people coming together in parks, busy markets, restaurants and bars, who have not respected the instruction to close. As if, deep down, life had not changed at all.

To all those who adopt this behavior, defy instructions, I want to say tonight, very clearly, not only are you not protecting yourself, recent evolutions have demonstrated that nobody is invulnerable, including the youngest among us, but you are not protecting others, even if you have no symptoms, you can transmit the virus. Even if you have no symptoms, you risk contaminating your friends, your parents, your grandparents and putting at risk the health of your loved ones. In the Grand-Est, Hauts-de-France and Ile-de-France regions, our medical professionals are battling to save lives, devotedly and with strength.

At the moment when the state of healthcare worsens considerably, when the pressure on our hospitals and our nurses intensifies, all our commitment, all our energy, all our strength must concentrate on one goal alone: slow down the progression of the virus. Again, tonight I strongly reiterate respecting distancing measures and health instructions. This is the only way to protect vulnerable citizens, to have less countrymen infected and as such, reduce the strain on intensive care services so that they can better welcome and treat patients. In the absence of acute symptoms, contact your primary care physician, do not call SAMU and only go to the hospital if you have a high fever or difficulty breathing, without this measure, they cannot affront the wave of acute cases already taking shape in certain regions. Show proof, at heart, of the spirit of solidarity and a sense of responsibility. Each of us must at all price limit the number of people with whom we are in contact each day. Scientists affirm, it’s the utmost priority.

This is why, after having consulted the experts, people in the field, I feel it is only fair that I’ve decided to reinforce once again the measures to reduce our movements and contacts to the strict minimum. As of tomorrow, at noon, and for 15 days at least, our movements with be strongly reduced. This signifies that outside gatherings, reunions with family or friends will no longer be permitted. Taking a walk, meeting friends in the park, in the street, will no longer be possible. It’s a question of limiting to the maximum our contacts outside the home. Everywhere in the French territory, in the mainland and overseas alike, only necessary movements should remain. Necessary to do errands with discipline and maintaining at lease one meter away from one another, without shaking hands, or kissing. Needless to say, necessary trips for healthcare will be authorized. Necessary trips to work, when remote working is not possible, and necessary trips for a little physical activity but without meeting, once again, one’s friends or loved ones. All businesses must organize to facilitate remote working. And when that will not be possible, from tomorrow, they must adapt their organization to respect barrier methods against the virus, that’s to say protect their employees or, when speaking of independent workers, protect themselves.

The government will specify the terms of these new rules tonight, immediately following my speech. Any violation of these rules will be sanctioned. I say this solemnly this evening. Listen to the medical professionals who say, “if you want to help us, you must stay home and limit your contacts”. This is clearly the priority. Tonight, I am applying new rules. We are applying new bans. There will be controls but the best rule, is that as citizens, you apply yourselves and once again, I call upon your sense of responsibility and solidarity.

In this context, after having consulted the President of the Senate, the President of the National Assembly, as well as my predecessors, I have decided that the second round of municipal elections will be postponed. Today, the Prime Minister informed party leaders represented in Parliament. This decision was the subject of a unanimous accord.

My dear countrymen, I measure the impact of these decisions on your lives. Giving up seeing your loved ones is heartbreaking. Stopping your daily activities, your habits, is very difficult. This must not prevent us from keeping in touch, from calling our loved ones, updating them, organizing as well with our neighbors. Creating greater solidarity between generations. To remain, as I told you last Thursday, profoundly united and to innovate on this point. I know that I am asking you to stay home.

I also ask you to remain calm in this context. The past hours, I have seen sensations of panic, in every sense of the term. We must all embody a spirit of responsibility. False information must not circulate left and right and by staying home, taking care of your loved ones in your apartment, your house; give updates, ask for updates, read. Go back to basics. I think this is important in the moments we are living through. Culture, education, a sense of what is important. Avoid the spirit of panic, to believe in false rumors. So-called experts or naysayers. The word is clear, the information transparent, and we continue to give it. But believe me, this effort that I’m asking of you, I know that it is unprecedented, but circumstances obligate it.

We are at war, a health war. We are not fighting against an army or against another nation, but the enemy is there, invisible, elusive, and who advances. And this requires us to rally. We are at war. Every action of the government and of Parliament must now be focused on the combat of this epidemic, day and night. Nothing must sway us. This is why I have decided that current reforms will be suspended, beginning with the reform on retirement.

After Wednesday, at the cabinet meeting, a bill will be proposed to enable the government to respond to the emergency and, when necessary, to legislate by order in sectors, pertaining strictly to the management of the crisis. This project will be submitted to the Parliament as early as Thursday. Earlier, I saw the presidents of the National Assembly and of the Senate so that these texts can be voted upon in the most astute manner, also so that democratic institutions and the control of Parliament continues during this period. I thank them and I thank all our parliamentarians at this time.

We are at war. I call upon all politicians, economists, social associations, all French to join this national union that has enabled our country to overcome so many past crises. We are at war and the Nation will support its children who, healthcare personnel in the city, at the hospital, find themselves on the front line in a combat that is going to ask of them energy, determination, solidarity. They have rights from us. We owe them, evidently, the means, the protection. We will be there. We owe them, the masks, the hand sanitizer, all the necessary material. And we will watch over them and will ensure it.  

We have decided with scientists to reserve masks in priority for the hospital and the doctors in the city and the countryside, particularly general practitioners and nurses, who are now on the front lines as well in the management of this crisis. Masks will be delivered to pharmacies beginning tomorrow evening, in the 25 departments the most impacted, Wednesday for the rest of the national territory. I have also heard the message communicated by specialists, in particular dental surgeons and many others. With the Minister of Health, we will find a solution in the coming hours.

We owe it as well to the nurses to provide childcare. A minimum service of care will be put into place as of today in the daycares and schools. We owe them also peace of mind, in their movements, and rest. This is why I have decided that beginning tomorrow the taxis and the hotels could be mobilized for their use. The State would pay.

We are at war, yes. During this period, the country will accompany the regions the most impacted today, as well as those that will be tomorrow. For this reason, I want to assure residents, the healthcare personnel of the Grand-Est region, that we will be there to support them in the face of the influx of patients and the saturation of the hospitals. I know what they are living through for days and days. We are with them. For this, I have decided that a countryside military hospital will be deployed in Alsace in the days to come. The army will also bring their support to transport the sick from the most effected areas, thus reducing the congestion of hospitals in certain territories.

We are at war. Also, as I told you Thursday, to protect us and contain the dissemination of the virus, but also to preserve our healthcare system, this morning we have taken, between Europeans, a common decision. Beginning tomorrow at noon, the frontiers at the entry of the European Union and the Schengen Zone will be closed. Concretely, all travels between non-European countries and the European Union will be suspended for 30 days. French citizens who are abroad and wish to return could of course rejoin their country. We must take this decision because I ask of you tonight important efforts and we must, in the long-term, protect ourselves. And I want to say to all our countrymen who live abroad that there as well, in an orderly way, they must contact the embassies and consulates and we will organize for those who wish, and for those whom it is necessary, their repatriation.

You have understood, you have sensed it, this unprecedented health crisis will have human consequences, social, and major economic. It’s also the challenge that we must face. I have also asked of you enormous sacrifices to slow the epidemic. This should never put into question aid for the most fragile, the continuation of a business, the means of support of an employee or an independent worker.

For those in a situation of precarity, for the most destitute, for people living in isolation, we will ensure, with the largest associations, also with the local authorities and their services, that they can be fed, protected, that the services that we owe them are maintained. For economic life, concerning France, no enterprise, regardless of its size, will be condemned to fail. No French citizen will be left without resources.

On the topic of enterprises, we will put into place exceptional measures to defer fiscal and social taxes, to defer bank deadlines and a State guarantee up to 300 billion euros for all bank loans contracted with banks. For the smallest among them, and as long as the situation lasts, those facing difficulties will have nothing to spend, either for taxes or social charges. Bills for gas and electricity as well as rents should be suspended.

Furthermore, so that nobody is left without resources, for employees, a package of partial unemployment will be massively expanded, as I announced to you last Thursday, and as the government has begun specifying. For entrepreneurs, businessmen, artisans, a solidarity fund will be created, supplemented by the State, and to which the Prime Minister will propose to regions to also contribute.

Beginning tomorrow, the government will provide more details on these measures. They will be in function of needs, economic realities, sector necessities, and clearly adapted. We will be there so that our economy is preserved during this difficult period and for the ensemble of workers so that they can benefit from this security also in terms of purchasing power, and continuity of their lives.  

My dear countrymen, France is living through a very difficult moment. Nothing can predict precisely the duration and as the days go by, as problems lead to problems, it’s necessary to refer back to the insight provided by scientists, the experience in the field, we must adapt. We are also going to continue during this period to work, to progress on finding a treatment and I know the devotion of multiple teams everywhere in the territory developing the first promising breakthroughs, and we will continue to advance as well on the vaccine.

Regularly, I will address you. I will tell you each time, as I have done, as the government has done, the truth about the evolution of the situation. I am certain, the more we act together and quickly, the greater we will conquer this test. The more we act as citizens, the more we show proof of the same strength of mind, of the same patriotic self-sacrifice that our healthcare workers demonstrate today, our firefighters, the ensemble of civil security forces, the quicker we will get out of this slower version of life. We will make it.

My dear countrymen, in being united, supportive, I ask you to be responsible together and not to give into panic, to accept these limitations, to carry them, and to explain them, to apply them yourselves. We will all apply them, there will be no exceptions. There as well, we won’t give into panic or disorder. We will win, but this period will take much from us. Many convictions and beliefs will by pushed aside, will be questioned. Many things that we thought impossible will happen. We will not be surprised, will act strongly, but remember this, the day after, when we will have won, it will not be a return to the normalcy of the days before. We will be morally stronger. We will have learned, and I will also be will you in understanding all the implications, all the implications. Rise up individually and collectively, to the expectations of the moment. I know, my dear countrymen, I can count on you. Long live the Republic, Long live France!