The French President has been warned of possible repercussions at next year’s election over his decision to order the shutdown after he insisted for weeks that the country should be kept open. From Saturday, all non-essential shops will be shut and people will be banned from travelling more than six miles from home. Schools will also close for at least three weeks.
In a bid to justify his change in mood, Mr Macron said the nationwide measures were needed to stave off the third wave gripping Europe.
But social media users ripped apart his strategy, and some accused him of behaving like a dictator.
One person said the rules were typical of “a EUSSR dictator”.
A second said the President was clearly behaving like a “dictator during Covid”.
They added: “Problem with Macron: he was always authoritarian (forcing policies French people didn’t vote for).”
And yet a third tweeted: “Macron is a dictator and has his political reasons.
“Curfews have been in place for all of 2021 already. Restaurants have been closed for six months.
“French people are becoming irate and fed up, for if strict measures were working, they’d have seen lowering of cases long ago.”
Another man said the nationwide lockdown was “simply a way to stop angry French going out into the street demanding the resignation of the dictator Macron”.
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The expression is widely used by the French to mean a definitive defeat.
Ms Le Pen tweeted: “Unfortunately it is the French people who suffer the consequences of these delays, of his pride, and of his inconsistent decision-making, with a heavy price on their daily lives.”
She is expected to be the centre-right president’s main challenger in 2022.
In a desperate bid to divert attention away from France’s crisis and the EU’s vaccine failures, Mr Macron resorted to blaming Britain for the pandemic.
In his televised address he referenced the Covid variant first detected in Kent which he said was the blame for a surge in infections.
He said: “This variant which was identified for the first time from our British neighbours at the end of last year.
“And to a certain extent, of course, gave rise to an epidemic within the epidemic and that is greater than last spring.”
Mr Macron insisted he was right to take a gamble and keep France open while cases surged in recent weeks but admitted the government had made mistakes since the crisis began.
He said: “We’ve made mistakes. There were delays, there were things that we have corrected.”