French President Emmanuel Macron says normal life is still far away from the country even as it moves to end a weeks-long lockdown imposed over the new coronavirus pandemic.
Macron said on Friday that some tough measures will still be in place after May 11 when France ends the lockdown that was imposed in mid-March.
“May 11 will not be the passage to normal life. There will be a recovery that will need to be reorganized … There will be several phases and May 11 will be one of them.” Macron said in a speech at the presidential palace.
France marked one of its calmest Labor Days ever with only a small protest reported in the capital Paris where riot police clashed with a handful of protesters. People heeded calls by unions and opposition leaders to bang pans and put out banners on their balconies to mark the day.
Macron took to his Twitter account to hail the traditional parade, which normally draws tens of thousands of workers and other protesters to the streets each year, saying France needed solidarity and unity in the current tough times.
Opposition leader Marine Le Pen, however, said the lockdown would not be an end to demands for change, especially in the way the government has tried to contain the pandemic.
“A successful end to the lockdown is with tests for everybody, masks for everybody and I am opposed to schools opening before September,” said Le Pen, a far-right leader, who went to central Paris despite the lockdown to attend a traditional May 1 commemoration ceremony.
The pandemic has killed 24,000 people in France, one of the highest tolls in Europe and in the world.
Experts have raised doubts about the practicality of a government decision to allow schools to reopen after May 11 while they have questioned a claim by Macron team that they will increase the number of tests carried out for the new coronavirus to 700,000 on the day the lockdown ends.