President Macron is due to address the French nation on December 15 to announce plans for the next level of restrictions to contain the coronavirus. It had been hoped that the unpopular “attestation” would no longer be needed, giving people much more flexibility in planning their daily lives.

When he last spoke two weeks ago, announcing the reopening of non-essential shops and the extension from one hour to three of the time allowed out of the house on essential business, there was a veiled promise that the self-certified attestation would go and theatres and cinemas be allowed to open. This was dependent on the number of new contaminations per day being in the region of 5,000, the president said.

The problem is that new cases are running at about 10,000 daily, or twice the target number.

It now seems very unlikely that lockdown restrictions will be relaxed further. However, it also seems increasingly unlikely that they will regress to stricter controls, in part because the public is getting restless and may not be less and less inclined to follow them.

The mood music emanating from the presidential palace is that 5,000 is not a “totem.”

Increasingly the magic figure being looked at is the number of patients in intensive care, rather than case numbers.

If there remains spare capacity within the French hospital system the chances are that more controls will not be reimposed next week. But if numbers go up so no spare capacity is left, the French public may have to stomach going back to tighter restrictions.

FILE PHOTO: French Prime Minister Jean Castex, wearing a protective face mask, answers questions at the National Assembly in Paris, France, December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes