Macron Returns France to Lockdown as Vaccinations Lag

In recent months, the Élysée has tried to finesse Mr. Macron’s handling of the epidemic, distancing him when trouble has emerged and moving him closer when things have looked up.

That strategy has sometimes taken on strange twists, as when his entourage this week seemed to try to fend off criticism that Mr. Macron had ignored the advice of epidemiologists. Unlike at the start of the epidemic, they said, Mr. Macron was much less dependent on experts because he had studied and read so much on the virus.

“The president has acquired a real expertise on issues of health,’’ his national education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, was quoted as saying in Le Monde. “It’s not an inaccessible subject for an intellect like his and given the significant time he’s devoted to it for several months.’’

Le Monde related how people close to Mr. Macron “were impressed by the mastery of the head of state, who has kept up with numerous research studies on the subject of the coronavirus.’’ According to the article, Mr. Macron was now capable of “challenging” his own health minister and experts.

“Emmanuel Macron wanted to instill a rather heroic narrative about himself,’’ said Mr. Cautrès, the political scientist. “He is the one who faces all the storms, all the difficulties.’’

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