Without the traditional military parade down the famous avenue of the Champs Elysees and public celebration, French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday presided over the Bastille Day ceremony overshadowed by the coronavirus crisis.
For this year’s celebration, the military parade, which traditionally attracted huge crowds, was cancelled for the first time since 1945 and replaced by a downsized defile in the Place de la Concorde square in central Paris.
Following a government ban on public gatherings with more than 5,000 people due to the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 2,500 men and women from France’s army, navy and air force — half of the usual number — took part in the ceremony. Without mask but respecting physical distance, about 2,000 participants, including 1,400 medical staff and representatives of civil society, joined the gathering.
Accompanied by army chief Francois Lecointre, Macron kicked off the festivities by reviewing troops on board of an open-roof military vehicle, before attending a tribute to Charles de Gaulle on the 50th anniversary of the general’s death.
For his fourth July 14 celebration, held in the shadow of the coronavirus, the president paid tribute to Operation Resilience, which he launched in March to help fight the coronavirus and saluted sacrifices of frontline health workers.
“I wish, with all the French, with the armies themselves, to pay a vibrant tribute to health workers and those who, in all sectors, have enabled public, social and economic life to continue,” Macron said in message released ahead of the celebration.
By nightfall, fireworks will light the sky over the Eiffel Tower as usual, but without the public. Many French cities had called off fireworks and other festivities over fears of the COVID-19 spread.
The Bastille Day marks the anniversary of July 14, 1789, when French citizens stormed the Bastille prison in Paris, sparking the French Revolution.