French President Emmanuel Macron (C) speaks flanked by French Defence Minister Florence Parly (L) and French Junior Minister of…
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks flanked by Defense Minister Florence Parly (L) and Junior Minister of Remembrance and Veterans Affairs Genevieve Darrieussecq (R) during an address to France's armed forces, July 13, 2020.

PARIS - France’s annual Bastille Day, Tuesday, will be very different this year, with the coronavirus pandemic shaping much more subdued celebrations — and a new concept of war.

France’s yearly display of military might is still on the menu — from jets and helicopters flying over Paris, to troops on the ground.

FILE - French troops march down the Champs Elysee avenue during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, France, July 14, 2018.

But most French will have to switch on their TVs if they want to see it this year. The traditional firemen’s balls are cancelled. And while Paris fireworks are still on, Mayor Anne Hidalgo recommends city residents watch them from home.

Military aircrafts fly over the Arc de Triomphe during a rehearsal for the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, France, July 9. 2020.

Across France, Bastille Day 2020 is a toned-down affair. Just a few thousand will attend the main ceremony in the French capital — taking place at the Place de la Concorde — instead of the hordes watching the usual parade down the Champs Elysees.  

A member of the French military dons her protective face mask during a marching formation practice for the July 14 Bastille Day Parade, Paris, July 12, 2020.

And this year, the nation pays tribute to health care and other frontline workers involved in a new battle — not in Mali or Afghanistan, but at home, against COVID-19. Some of them are attending the Paris parade. So are health ministers from four European countries — Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg — which took in French coronavirus patients. 

Members of the French military 'Ecole du personnel paramedical des armees' practice for Bastille Day Parade, this year being replaced by a tribute to health workers, Paris, July 12, 2020.

All of this reflects the thinking of French President Emmanuel Macron. He has repeatedly described the fight against the pandemic a "war."

Waiters work at the terrace of a cafe in Paris, on June 15, 2020, one day after French president announced the reopening of dining rooms of Parisian cafes and restaurants.

 In recent weeks, France — which once had one of the world’s highest caseloads — appeared to be winning it. Daily cases have fallen sharply from several months ago, along with mortalities.  

But with lockdown a distant memory, health experts now fear a resurgence. The French are shedding their masks, heading to holidays and increasingly greeting each other with the traditional double-cheek kiss. The numbers of sick are inching back up. Worrying traces of the virus have been found in Paris wastewater.  

Today, the government is considering making mask-wearing obligatory in indoor spaces. On France-Info radio, Health Minister Olivier Verran warned against relaxing social distancing guidelines.  

FILE - A banner reading "Emergency services are suffering" above empty stretchers in the hall of the emergency services of the Aix Hospital Center in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, April 3, 2020.

Along with Bastille Day, another French tradition promises to be observed. Some health care workers are planning to protest in Paris against recently agreed hospital reforms, which they argue do not go far enough.