Macron under pressure: French president sent dire warning over coronavirus

“We need to see concrete action, because words alone carry no weight,” Mr Martinez, a fierce Macron critic, told France Info radio. France’s total death toll from coronavirus infections climbed above 15,000 on Tuesday, making it the fourth country to hit that threshold after Italy, Spain and the US. “Scores of people are working in poorly paid jobs in this country,” he said, as he called for a “rapid increase in the minimum wage” to help people cope with the economic fallout from the deadly outbreak.

The Macron government “must strengthen, and not break” the French social model, Mr Martinez insisted.

His comments came shortly after Mr Macron said that the drastic lockdown measures in place to contain the epidemic would be extended until May 11, but that the restrictions could start to be eased from then if current positive trends continued.

The lockdown has confined the French to their homes since March 17 with only brief trips allowed outside for food shopping and other essential errands.

The tough measures have all but paralysed the economy and brought daily life to a virtual standstill.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, for his part, has warned that the economy was expected to contract eight percent this year instead of the six percent flagged as recently as last week.  

On Wednesday, he said that the government had hiked the expected cost of its measures to support the battered economy through the coronavirus crisis to 110 billion euros (£96 billion).

“We are going to go from 45 billion euros in a first economic support plan … to about 110 billion euros,” the finance chief told RTL radio.

The emergency package allows companies to defer billions of euros of tax and payroll charges to cope with the collapse in business and creates a 7-billion-euro (£6 billion) solidarity fund for the most fragile small companies, which has already been accessed by some 900,000 firms.

With over eight million workers on state-subsidised furloughs, the government has increased the budget for that programme to 24 billion euros (£20.9 billion) from 20 billion euros (£17.4 billion) previously.  

The government has also promised to guarantee up to 300 billion euros (£262 billion) of business loans from commercial loans to help companies weather the crisis.

The country’s total death toll from coronavirus infections rose above 15,000 on Tuesday, making it the fourth country to hit that bleak milestone after Italy, Spain and the United States.

Jerome Salomon, the head of the public health authority, told a daily press briefing that the number of deaths in hospitals and nursing homes had risen by five percent in a day to a cumulative total of 15,729, compared to four percent on Monday and Sunday.  

He added that the total number of confirmed infections had increased by 5.3 percent to 103,573, versus a rate of increase of 2.8 percent on Monday and 1.7 percent on Sunday.

But the number of people in intensive care units dropped for a sixth consecutive day, falling to 6,730 from 6,821 over 24 hours.

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