PARIS — Seeking to regain control over his agenda five months before elections, President Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday announced the tightening of a key anti-coronavirus measure as infections keep rising across France and the rest of Europe.
In a nationally televised speech from the Élysée Palace, Mr. Macron also tried to shift the focus away from the pandemic that has upended his presidency by laying out themes expected to underpin his bid for re-election.
“Vaccinate yourself so that you can lead a normal life,” Mr. Macron implored those who had still not gotten a single shot. Addressing the nation for the ninth time since the start of a crisis that has claimed 119,000 lives in France, he added, “Being free in a nation like France entails being responsible and showing solidarity. I’m therefore counting on you.”
People over the age of 65 will now have to get a third booster shot to remain eligible for a vaccine passport needed to gain access to restaurants, museums, long-distance trains and other public places. The new rule takes effect on Dec. 15.
France has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with 69 percent of the country fully vaccinated. But new cases have been increasing in recent weeks, as have hospital admissions. An average of 40 Covid-related deaths are reported every day in hospitals — a 60 percent increase over the past seven days, though only a tenth of the figure a year ago when no vaccines were available.
France is the latest European country to experience a resurgence in the virus. Germany suffered record cases this month, and Britain is in the middle of a surge just three months after all restrictions were lifted on what Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as “Freedom Day.”
The World Health Organization warned last week that Europe was back at the epicenter of the pandemic and that half a million people could die from Covid in the next few months.
Mr. Macron urged the French not to let their guards down. In the past couple of months, as infections had decreased steadily since August, many restaurants in Paris and elsewhere had stopped inspecting customers’ vaccination passports, as they are required to do.
Though billed as an address on the pandemic, the 27-minute speech sounded more often like a campaign declaration. Mr. Macron summarized what he considered his presidency’s accomplishments and listed goals in a potential second term.
“So the third shot was just an excuse to make a campaign speech whose declarations are all eminently debatable,” Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally, said in a Tweet.
The pandemic derailed some of the most ambitious reforms of Mr. Macron’s presidency, including overhauling France’s complex pension system and reining in public spending.
Between March 2020 and August 2021, the French government spent 240 billion euros, or about $280 billion, to prop up the economy, with massive assistance to companies and individuals.
Since September — with borrowing made easier because of the pandemic — the French government has continued to pour millions into various projects, including the revitalization of the city of Marseille, farming, sports, youth programs, home energy renovations and a one-off 100-euro check to lower-income households to offset rising energy prices.
Rivals in next April’s presidential elections have accused Mr. Macron of hypocrisy in using public money for electoral purposes.
“You now have with Macron, Christmas in September, Christmas in October, Christmas in November,” Xavier Bertrand, a center-right politician, said Monday during a debate of presidential hopefuls from the Republicans party.
Mr. Macron is leading in the polls among voters ahead of the election next April and is expected to make it into the runoff in a two-round contest. He had long been expected to face off against Ms. Le Pen in a rematch of the 2017 elections.
But the emergence and rapid rise of Eric Zemmour, a far-right TV star and writer, has upset the calculus of Mr. Macron, Ms. Le Pen and other presidential contenders. Most polls now show Mr. Zemmour in second place behind the president.
Though he has yet to officially declare his candidacy, Mr. Zemmour has succeeded in focusing the debate so far on the highly explosive issue of immigration.
Mr. Macron, who has also still not declared his bid for re-election, has kept a relatively low profile as his rivals across the political gamut have clashed in recent weeks. His speech Tuesday was seen in the French news media as an effort to move the debate away from immigration onto economic matters.