French PM outlines roadmap for gradual exit from Covid-19 lockdown
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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has outlined his plan to move France out of its coronavirus lockdown from 11 May – provided it is safe to do so.
During an hour-long speech to French MPs in the Assemblée Nationale, Philippe detailed the progressive resumption of schools and colleges, the reopening of shops and businesses as well as small museums.
Bars, cafés and restaurants, however, would remain closed along with theatres and cinemas until at least the end of May. He also sounded the end of France's top-flight football season.
Philippe warned: “If the indicators aren’t where they are supposed to be, we will not come out of this period of confinement on 11 May. We could make it even stricter.”
An unimaginable situation
France went into lockdown on 17 March as part of the government’s effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic which has killed more than 20,000 people across the country.
Philippe added: “Who would have thought three months ago about the place that the word confinement would take in our national life? Never in the history of our country - not during the wars, nor during the occupation, have we ever known such a situation.”
Only 75 of the 577 MPs were in the main chamber of the National Assembly as politicians adhered to social-distancing measures.
"It is a fine line that must be followed,” said Philippe. “A little too much carelessness, and the epidemic restarts. A little too much caution, and the entire country sinks.”
A staggered reopening of France's schools
Philippe said home confinement had helped slow the epidemic's spread and had prevented tens of thousands of deaths,
But he said the economy must be reopened following eight weeks of closures.
To that end, primary schools and day care centres will be rebooted first followed by colleges for 11-15 year-olds the following week, though only in areas that have not been too severely affected by the epidemic.
Philippe said teachers and college pupils would be obliged to wear face masks during school hours. He said he did not expect under 11s to wear a mask though they would be available for children who started to show symptoms of the virus at school before they were taken home by their parents.
Hailing the work of teachers during the confinement, Philippe said: “The devotion of thousands of teachers to look after the children of doctors and nurses has been noted. So too the inventiveness of so many who have come up with original ways to keep their pupils involved via the internet.”
Masks, he said, would also be compulsory on public transport.
“City transport systems are key to the country getting back to work but keeping your distance on them is difficult. I’m aware of everyone's concerns when they’re taking the metro or a bus or a train.”
And in a blow to sports and concert organisers, Philippe said there would be no gatherings of more than 5,000 people before September. “The 2019-2020 professional sports season, including football, won’t be able to restart.”
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