“Faced with a fifth ‘dazzling’ wave, will Emmanuel Macron be able to decide ‘without taboos’?”

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TRIBUNE - Emmanuel Hirsch, professor of medical ethics at the University of Paris-Saclay and author of A bereaved democracy-Pandemic, first inventory duty, calls on the President of the Republic to take the most effective measures against the Covid- 19 and detach from the political context.


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TRIBUNE – Emmanuel Hirsch, professor of medical ethics at the University of Paris-Saclay and author ofA bereaved democracy-Pandemic, the first duty of inventory, calls on the President of the Republic to take the most effective measures against Covid-19 and to detach himself from the political context.


Here is the column of Emmanuel Hirsch, professor of medical ethics at the University of Paris-Saclay: “The Austrian authorities have imposed a fourth lockdown, also referring to the house arrest of people not vaccinated against the Covid-19. In Europe, other restrictive measures have been decided: they give rise to protest movements, as is the case in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. In Guadeloupe, health constraints are fueling protests, causing unrest and riots. Is the French political context such as to allow the government to impose strict measures if the health circumstances require it?

Having wished for a ‘return to normal’ without taking the time to provide feedback and without considering it necessary to involve society in the anticipation of a new phase of the health crisis, does it not weaken the executive in its capacity to determine perhaps coercive lines of action to which our society should adhere as in March 2020? Could the capacity of our hospitals, which has been the subject of so much debate in recent weeks, be up to a new major health challenge without once again agreeing to deprogramming?

The enchanting ‘back to normal’ speech seems to have gone out of date within hours

The reopening strategy set out by the Head of State on April 29, 2021 clearly laid down a method: ‘progressivity, prudence and vigilance'[1]. Lacked the anticipation of unforeseen circumstances of a pandemic development imposing binding political decisions that it may be irresponsible to postpone in the coming weeks.

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The enchanting ‘back to normal’ discourse, proclaimed as a slogan to make us believe the health crisis was under control and out of date, appears to have expired within hours.

The announcement of the vaccination obligation of a third dose to which people over 65 have been assigned since November 9, is it not one of the precursors of other public order provisions? which could be imposed urgently if we do not manage to mitigate our exposure to a risk whose threat seems to be confirmed?

Will new compromises relating in particular to the exercise of our individual freedoms be necessary again, risking, in the current political context, a challenge this time difficult to overcome and used for ends whose motives are well known?

It was unwise to consider a pause in health mobilization

If the concern to preserve the right balance between fundamental freedoms and health imperatives is invoked to avoid any excess, the margins of action are limited.

From a political point of view, if public health measures were to be imposed this time again in haste for lack of having been able to explain the democratic stakes of a mobilization against Covid-19 demanding and fair over a long In the end, would there not then be reason to blame a form of negligence in terms of governance? Unless we recognize as an observation of failure or powerlessness, that French society is now resistant to renouncements which it was led to believe would no longer be relevant, exhausted moreover by a chaotic management of the crisis despite the economic support measures.

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It was unwise to consider a pause in health mobilization, even if the acceptability of society over the long term constitutes a given which necessarily determines political strategy. While we had time to attenuate the pandemic dynamic, should we not find there the opportunity for retrospective analyzes in order to make the necessary corrections to the continuous systems made essential by a crisis that is becoming chronic?

We could regret in the coming weeks the time when our freedom was to be able to act voluntarily and responsibly against the pandemic, being jointly and severally part of the vaccine strategy.

According to what criteria do we consider that the bet of individual responsibility is no longer tenable?

In a letter sent on July 1, 2021 to the presidents of parliamentary groups, the Prime Minister observed ‘that many people do not respect isolation when they are infected with the virus. This observation could lead us to wonder about the advisability of establishing an obligation of isolation, accompanied by sanctions, as we have already done for people from certain high-risk countries’.

According to what criteria and at what threshold in the scale of gravity, do we consider that the bet of individual accountability and unconditional respect for decision-making autonomy is no longer tenable, or even that mandatory provisions should be made? to impose with regard to the best interests of the nation?

If it is necessary to understand the resistances, to explain and to convince in order to prevent dissenting positions from assimilating to a political protest against the executive, it is only by adopting a method of inventive governance of other practices. We see their limits and the pitfalls we face when intentional, injunctive and often moralistic discourse seems foiled by the facts.

The risk of a resurgence of the pandemic threat comes in a context where ‘the return to normalcy’ was based on the belief that vaccination alone was the absolute solution to protect us and guard against any eventuality. If scientific studies attest to the relevance of vaccination to prevent resuscitation and preventable death in significant percentages, the immediate reality again gives rise to controversies in this regard which can only be reinforced and accentuate the divisions.

Our democracy is fragile from the gap between the constraints of the political approach to the pandemic and the kinetics of the pandemic

Our democracy is fragile from the obvious gap between the constraints of the political approach to the pandemic (especially 6 months from the presidential deadline) and the kinetics of a pandemic revealing, once again, an inability to understand how to arbitrate together the choices that concern us collectively. This political sense and intelligence of reality should be understood as the urgency that conditions even our political choices in a few months.

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On March 25, 2021, following the European Council, the President of the Republic referred to his resolutions in his strategy to fight Covid-19: ‘I consider that we were right on January 29 (2021) not to take closure measures, we were right then to take the first braking measures. And depending on the evolution of this epidemic, we will take all the measures on time. In our view, there is no taboo. We must always have the most suitable answer [2].’

What taboos will he have to face if the sanitary circumstances justify him to impose on our society ‘the most suitable response’? “

[1] “A strategy and an agenda for reopening “, French government, May 12, 2021

[2] Speech by the President of the Republic, 25 mars 2021

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