Macron strolls Champs Elysées in 'message of confidence' amid coronavirus

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By Julie Gaubert  with AP, AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron walk down the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, Monday, March 9, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron walk down the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, Monday, March 9, 2020.   -  Copyright  Yoan Valat/AP

French President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte Macron walked hand-in-hand on Paris' Champs-Elysees on Monday "to send a message of confidence to the French economy" amid the coronavirus outbreak.

France, like many other countries, has imposed restrictions in order to slow the spreading of COVID-19, leading to an economic slowdown.

The presidential couple went to see retailers on the street, famous for its luxury boutiques, but "maintained a one-metre security distance from others," AP reported.

"I'm shaking hands using my heart," Macron said as he waved at people in the street.

One of his stops was for the opening of the new Café Joyeux, a chain that employs workers with learning difficulties.

"We are very proud that the President of the Republic agreed to come despite the virus," said Yann Bucaille Lanrezac, who founded the Café Joyeux chain.

"It's important to have a response that corresponds to the risk as analysed by scientists," Macron told journalists. "We cannot shut down the country but we need to protect the most fragile people."

France's death toll rose to 25 on Monday, with 1,412 confirmed cases, according to AFP.

Cultural and sports events cancelled

After the health minister announceda ban on any events of more than 1,000 people, France needs to reshuffle its cultural and sports calendar.

Shortly after the decision to play the Champions League match between Paris SG and Dortmund on Wednesday without fans, sports minister Roxana Maracineanu announced that games behind closed doors "could become an organisational doctrine for competitions and professional sports".

"I am chairing an internal meeting on #coronavirus this morning at the ministry to focus on the impact on French sport and the conditions for organising sports competitions, given the exceptional sanitary context."

"What I recommend is sporting continuity, especially for qualifying competitions at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games," she added.

With the exceptional threat linked to coronavirus, the government had first prohibited closed gatherings of more than 5,000 people until the end of May, before bringing the ban back to mid-April.

The measure had led to cancellations of concerts and shows such as the Mondial du tattoo in mid-March and the Book Fair in Paris in late March.

The new ban is a blow for the cultural sector.

"We have nothing more planned by the beginning of June", said Thierry Teodori, CEO of the Halle Tony Garnier in Lyon, one of the largest concert hall in France (up to 17,000 seats).

"Until now we postponed to June, but here we are forced to postpone until a year due to lack of space, because everything is taken in autumn and next winter" he added.

In Paris, the Louvre, which was closed for several days, only allows visitors with e-tickets and those with free entrance tickets.

More inventive, rock group Nada Surf will play two "identical" small concerts on Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. and at 9:15 p.m. at La Cigale in Paris, in order to "avoid cancellation or postponement."

A videoconference planned on Tuesday

European leaders will hold a videoconference on Tuesday to coordinate their actions in response to the coronavirus epidemic, European Council President Charles Michel announced on Monday.

Following the announcement, Macron tweeted: "To face Covid-19, unity is strength. I call on our European partners to take urgent action to coordinate health measures, research efforts and our economic response. Let's act together now."