President Emmanuel Macron believes he has become such an expert on Covid that ‘he is no longer following the advice of scientists,’ according to colleagues.
The 43-year-old faced damaging leaks in today’s Le Monde, one of France’s bestselling newspapers, which painted him as self-important and obstinate amid a surging third wave.
It comes as his right-wing rival Marine Le Pen, who is closing the gap in the polls, launched a scathing attack on Macron and the EU’s ‘dogma of ultra-liberalism.’
Le Monde reported that Macron has been contradicting his scientists since last spring when he first decided to reject their advice and reopen schools.
Since then, Macron has spent so much time opposing his health advisers’ calls for tougher lockdown measures that his colleagues state privately: ‘The president has become an epidemiologist.’
Emmanuel Macron is facing damaging leaks in the French press today amid a surging third wave and anger at his handling of the pandemic
Right-wing leader Marine Le Pen launched a scathing attack on Macron and the EU today
He regularly challenges his Health Secretary, Olivier Véran, who is a medical doctor, and the ‘scientists around the defence council table.’
‘He looks at all the studies as soon as they are published,’ said one colleague. ‘So much so that sometimes the President can bring up one that the experts in front of him have not even read.’
Macron is a particularly close follower the Twitter account of Guillaume Rozier, founder of the CovidTracker site, which monitors the epidemic, Le Monde reports.
‘The president has acquired real expertise in health matters,’ said Jean-Michel Blanquer, France’s Education Minister.
And Richard Ferrand, head of Macron’s LREM party (The Republic On The Move) said: ‘He looks for what’s new every day so as not to miss a thing. One day, he will be able to run for the immunology aggregation [France’s highest public examination in the subject].’
Le Pen today stuck the boot into Macron amid the damaging leaks with a presidential run just 12 months away.
‘The European Union has failed totally,’ especially when compared to Britain that is no longer part of the bloc, Le Pen told the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris.
She said France should have followed the example of Hungary and the Czech Republic which secured additional doses beyond the pro-rata distribution of vaccines contracted for the bloc by the EU which has struggled to secure supplies despite contracts with pharma firms.
‘They still tell us that as 27 countries we are stronger, but that is false – the solution must come at the national level, for this issue as in many others,’ she said.
‘And the EU needs to realise this – the EU is now seven weeks behind schedule for its vaccination drive,’ she said. ‘It’s catastrophic, and each week lost comes at a huge cost.’
Credit insurer Euler Hermes estimated this week that the EU’s delay will cost the bloc some 123 billion euros (£105 billion) this year.
In France, Macron is hoping to avoid imposing a third national lockdown or school closures in Paris and other high-risk areas, while vowing to pick up the pace of inoculations.
Opinion polls show that Le Pen is once again the front-runner to move with Macron into the second and final round of next year’s presidential vote, her third run for the post.
‘This health crisis has in reality revealed all the flaws of the dogma defended by Emmanuel Macron: I’m thinking of his dogma of ultraliberalism,’ Le Pen said.
‘Lots of French people will have understood that we have a choice, and that there is a new economic model to imagine,’ in particular with stricter national oversight of industrial strategy and sovereignty, she said.
Before he came to power in 2017, Macron once famously announced that he would be a Jupiter-style president, in the style of the Roman King of the Gods.
This led to claims that the former merchant banker who did not belong to a conventional political party was displaying extremely arrogance, and was not much interested in the advice of others.
Now, despite his confident approach to the Covid-19 pandemic, cases have spiralled to more than 40,000 new ones a day, and intensive care wards are overflowing.
This led to a Macron critic telling Le Monde: ‘It is very naive to claim that the president has epidemiological expertise because he reads everything in this area.’
Earlier this month, Macron refused to apologise for his country’s disastrous Coronavirus strategy, saying: ‘I can tell you that I have no mea culpa to offer, no remorse, no acknowledgement of failure.’
A limited lockdown was imposed in 19 departments two weeks ago, including the greater Paris region, where some patients are being evacuated out of the capital city because of a lack of beds.
France is well behind countries such as Britain in its vaccine roll out, especially after a series of U-turns by Macron over the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
He at first said it was not suitable for those over 65, before announcing that it should not be given to those under 55.
Many suggested that the notoriously anti-Brexit politician was opposed to Oxford-AstraZeneca jab because of its links with the UK.
Despite such criticism, Macron said: ‘I can tell you that I have no mea culpa to offer, no remorse, no acknowledgement of failure.’
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said: ‘Yes, the president is interested in anything related to the virus.
‘But that does not mean that he is a substitute for epidemiologists. On the contrary, he wants to draw as much as possible from their analysis, before making a decision.’