Does France seem well armed to face this “formidable present” called to “last” of which Edouard Philippe speaks?
Alas no. Permanently since the start of this crisis in January, we have systematically lagged behind events, so much so that France has found itself in a state of manifest unpreparedness in the face of the epidemic. Today, of course, is the time for general mobilization, but all the consequences of the multiple errors of the past few weeks must be drawn very quickly to avoid repeating them. “To govern is to foresee and to foresee nothing is to run to your loss,” wrote Émile de Girardin. Unfortunately, it is clear that no forecast was up to the challenge: no systematic screening strategy, tests absent in most hospitals until last week, shelved from doctors Liberals at the start of the crisis, opening of borders to all winds, cruel absence of protective masks, weakness of our hospital capacities… We cannot ignore these gaping faults which mark the management of the crisis.
The Prime Minister assures, however, that the political decision has adapted in the light of scientific information …
We will judge errors of appreciation over time, but what strikes me is the abundance of contradictory communication and the weakness of actions. The “at the same time” which marked each decision is less than ever adapted in times of crisis. We implement confinement but we refuse to say the word, we impose restrictive measures but sport is authorized, we encourage people to stay at home but we ask to work… We must stop with half-measures. Shock measures are necessary if we want to have another chance to stop the tragedy that lies ahead. We must change gear to fight this crisis and no longer hide behind words but act without weakness.
What measures do you claim multiple errors from these to consolidate containment?
Unfortunately, we know that confinement is the only solution since we have not been able to set up systematic and generalized tests as Germany and South Korea have done. In Germany with twice as many cases declared there are ten times less deaths, probably because the Germans have tested ten times more. During this week, containment was very poorly managed. There are entire neighborhoods where it does not apply, for fear of raising urban riots. Much more coercive measures are needed. I request the deployment of the army in these neighborhoods. All measures, including that of the curfew, must be implemented wherever the Republic is disputed.
Minister Castaner welcomed the curfew wanted in Nice but without deeming it necessary to generalize it. What do you think ?
Mayors have made decisions that the state refuses to make. Me, I wish that the confinement applies but for that, it is necessary to limit all the reasons for displacement to the only people exercising a profession of vital interest for the nation. This list must be defined very quickly and validated by the prefects, with the assistance of the mayors.
Why do you see a security emergency coupled with a health emergency?
The threats are very strong. Tensions are mounting everywhere in the neighborhoods, as in penal establishments. Some may take advantage of the situation to engage in looting or abuse. ISIS also launched a message to take advantage of the circumstances and hit us. With immense concern, I note that administrative detention centers, which housed foreigners leaving prison and being deported, are in the process of closing. Hundreds of potentially dangerous individuals are released, including in our prisons. Lowering guard in this period would be suicidal. Our police and gendarmes must be given the means to work safely. The fact that they don’t have masks is an absolute shame. More than 100 are affected by the virus and 5,000 have been confined. If we no longer have the commitment of our police forces, nothing will hold in this country!
Before the European border measures, Emmanuel Macron had warned of the risk of “nationalist withdrawal”. What is your opinion ?
This is probably one of the heaviest mistakes. On February 23, I asked the head of government to limit border traffic and very strict controls between France and Italy. My position was caricatured by calling for a communicative formula according to which the virus would know no borders. We are now told that it is not the virus that crosses borders but men … By ideology, we have lost more than a month. This precious time could have significantly limited the spread of the epidemic. I note to this day, moreover, that the border between France and Italy is still not closed on the French side.
Wasn’t the executive’s position based on scientific advice?
I do not believe that.
The lR group in the National Assembly wants a commission of inquiry into the management of this crisis. Why are you in favor of it?
It will be essential. The Republicans want to shed light on what led to this disaster. I am thinking in particular of masks. When Nicolas Sarkozy left the Elysee Palace in 2012, the stock was 1.4 billion. It has dropped to 140 million today. War has been declared on the coronavirus, but unfortunately the weapons most effective in winning it are still lacking.
What will be the lessons to be learned from these events?
The world will be radically different. The ideology of the end of nations and of the generalized triumph of globalization has lived. We will have to massively relocate activities to France. It’s absolutely mind-boggling that a country like ours is dependent on China to make masks and test for drugs. The important thing is to prioritize. The time will come for the demand for a massive economic recovery, but the immediate task is to freeze the situation, protect jobs and businesses from predators. All non-strategic activities must be stopped, Italy made this decision on Saturday do not wait a fortnight to do the same. Then, a major international economic and financial conference will be essential, like Bretton Woods, in the aftermath of the Second World War. For me, the latter will have to take very powerful measures which could even go as far as erasing public debts.
Are not your observations likely to shake up the “sacred union” which the government welcomes?
The strongest criticisms have been made by health professionals. They seem to be struggling with inappropriate weapons. We are in favor of national unity, as well as of the measures taken, but what matters is efficiency. The truth is always good to say because it allows us to move forward. While communication or concealment only delays our ability to act.