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People wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19 walk at Tuilerie garden in Paris, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021.
People wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19 walk at Tuilerie garden in Paris, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (Michel Euler/AP)

PARIS (Tribune News Service) — President Emmanuel Macron warned the French people of tough days ahead because of a spike in coronavirus infections and pledged to continue helping businesses affected by the pandemic.

"The coming weeks will be difficult, we all know that," Macron said in his New Year's national address from the Elysee Palace in Paris, predicting that the virus will continue to spread.

He cited cultural venues, tourism and sports as sectors facing the "economic consequences" of the virus resurgence. "We will help them as we must do and as we have been doing since the beginning of the pandemic," Macron said.

The coronavirus surge, with a daily record of 232,200 new infections reported Friday, has become a painful challenge for Macron four months before the presidential election. While he hasn't confirmed he'll be running again, his teams are working on the campaign and his reference to the "major choices" France must make in 2022 suggest he's preparing to announce his candidacy.

While most polls show him winning against any of the candidates in the second round, Macron faces tough competition from the conservatives and the far-right.

Containing the virus while shielding the economy from another plunge will be essential. In his speech, Macron vowed to spare no effort to "limit the restrictions."

In recent days France has made work from home mandatory for at least three days a week for most of January and banned food and drinks in cinemas and theaters. Bars and restaurants can only serve seated clients.

The government is also proposing to restrict access to bars, restaurants and cultural venues to people who are fully vaccinated. Lawmakers are scheduled to discuss that measure in the coming days, with the goal to replace the current rules in mid-January.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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