French President Emmanuel Macron is under pressure after shock data showed economic activity in the eurozone’s second largest economy was virtually halted by government-imposed lockdowns to stop the coronavirus pandemic. France’s IHS Markit’s Flash Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) plunged to 11.2 from 28.9 in April, way below estimates of 24.5 – its lowest reading since the survey began in 1998.
EU could take MONTHS to come up with coronavirus plan to save bloc FTSE 100 LIVE: Hammer blow for UK economy as buisness activity crashes
The INSEE official statistics said the country-wide lockdown was still reducing economic activity in the eurozone’s second largest economy by 35 percent more than a month since it was imposed.
The figures come after Mr Macron insisted Brussels had “no choice” but to set up a rescue fund that allows member states to share the debt burden of their coronavirus pandemic with richer neighbours.
He has sided with Italy and Spain as EU members prepare to meet again today to discuss the bloc’s joint recovery package.
Meanwhile, French retailers were offered some relief today when the Government signalled it wanted them to reopen when a nationwide lockdown ends on May 11, though some curbs could remain in certain areas to delay a new wave of the coronavirus.
Emmanuel Macron is under pressure over the coronavirus lockdown (Image: GETTY )
France’s economy has been crippled (Image: INSEE)
The government has ruled out restaurants, bars and cafes reopening straight after the lockdown is lifted, and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire indicated restrictions were likely to remain in regions that have been hit worst by the virus.
But he told France Info radio: “We want all retailers to be able to open on May 11 in the same way out of fairness.”
France has suffered the world’s fourth-highest reported coronavirus death toll of more than 20,000, with more than 158,000 infections.
President Macron ordered the lockdown in mid-March to slow the spread of the virus, but the government has been working on a plan that would minimise the chances of France being hit by a second wave of coronavirus cases when it ends.
READ MORE: FTSE 100 LIVE: Hammer blow for UK economy as buisness activity crashes
France’s economy has been crippled by the coronavirus lockdown (Image: GETTY )
End of the Euro? Expert questions long-term stability of eurozone France coronavirus crisis: Panic as Macron admits huge mask shortage
The government is under pressure to get the economy running again as soon as possible, even from within Mr Macron’s own party, but it has made clear that curbs will remain on travel between regions after May 11.
Mr Le Maire did not say where restrictions on retailers could remain, but the areas hit hardest by the coronavirus are eastern France and the Paris region.
Western France has been affected much less and there are concerns that removing restrictions on travel between regions could increase its exposure.
EU could take MONTHS to come up with coronavirus plan to save bloc [COMMENT]
Merkel and Macron lead opposition in bitter EU coronavirus row [INSIGHT]
End of the Euro? Expert questions long-term stability of eurozone [INTERVIEW]
France is on lockdown until May 11 (Image: GETTY )
Emmanuel Macron is tackling the health and economic implications of the coronavirus (Image: GETTY )
Public Health Authority chief Jerome Salomon warned that lifting the lockdown would depend on a substantial fall in the number of people sick and in intensive care.
He said: “France’s goal is not to create collective immunity by creating a second and then a third wave, that seems too dangerous to us.
“The goal is to prevent the circulation of the virus, and to create favourable conditions to gain time before the arrival of effective drugs or vaccines.”
Coronavirus is spreading panic across the globe (Image: EXPRESS)
Less than 10 percent of France’s 67 million population is expected to have contracted the virus by the end of the lockdown.
The government is also looking at limiting the movements of older people, who are more susceptible to contracting the virus, and the government has made clear that people “will not live as before” after the lockdown ends.
Companies have been told to encourage employees to continue working from home if they can, as this would limit the number of people using public transport.
The government wants to ensure face masks are available to the public by the end of the lockdown, though it is unclear whether it will be compulsory to wear them.
The government also aims to increase the number of tests to about 700,000 a week, from about 200,000 at the moment, Salomon said. It is also assessing whether those who test positive can then be isolated to break the transmission chain.