France’s Covid-19 Crisis a Failure of Macron’s Leadership
Just like in other powerful countries, the widespread eruption of the Covid-19 disease in France is seen as a result of presidential leadership.
Yet unlike U.S. president Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, well known for being one of the most powerful leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) international economic organization, humbly admitted his failures as a leader. He publicly acknowledged his government’s slow response, lack of preparedness and serious missteps that set the stage for France’s ranking today, as the country with the fourth highest cases of Covid-19 infection, totalling 165,027 of which 17,820 have died.
France’s Lack of Preparedness in Battling a Potentially Imminent Pandemic
Despite France’s world-class health care system, which has been consistently ranked as one of the best in the world, the medical facilities were not prepared to handle the novel coronavirus pandemic when it spread outside of China. The country’s health care system was quickly overwhelmed since there were not enough hospital beds, surgical masks, ventilators and other equipment critical to treatment of patients infected by Covid-19.
As remedial actions, the country’s leading food markets were transformed into makeshift morgues, while high-speed trains became emergency vehicles in Covid-19 infected patients seeking medical treatment. .
In Pres. Macron’s televised address to the nation last Monday, the French president announced the extension of the national lockdown to May 11, 2020. He also did not mince words in admitting the government’s lack of preparedness, saying
“This moment, let us be honest since the Covid-19 crisis has revealed cracks and shortages.” “Just like every country across the globe, we lacked gloves, hand gels, and have not been able to provide as many protective masks needed by our health professionals.”
Macron Government’s Slow Response
In January 24, 2020, when then French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn revealed that two French residents who had traveled to China, had tested positive for the coronavirus, Macron government’s actions did not show any sense of urgency. Notwithstanding that the two were also the first known Covid-19 case in Europe.
Although health officials gave advise to citizens to observe safety measures, strict implementation of social distancing measures was still not in place.
Despite shutting down 120 schools in the two regions to be the hardest hit, France’s Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told local televisions stations that confining everyone at home would not make sense, since it would paralyze the country.
Up to the early weeks of March, gatherings of 1,000 people were still allowed. President Macron himself attended a theater performance to show that even as the novel coronavirus has been spreading, life can continue without disruptions.
It was only in the middle of March, when France’s Covid-19 cases reached 15,000 that Macron and his leadership team began to worry over the possibility that the contagions would become worse, and that the situation was not showings signs of getting.getting better
To make matters worse, France did not have enough testing kits to test those tracked as potential carriers of the disease.
France as it turned out was merely ordering their supply of test kits from China, which at that time, was still deeply embattled in the fight against Covid-19.