France to gradually lift lockdown from 11 May, Paris still restricted
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has confirmed that the government will start lifting the Covid-19 lockdown as of 11 May, but people living in regions that are most at risk, notably in Paris, will still face tight restrictions.
On Thursday, Philippe and six members of his cabinet explained what the "gradual lifting" of the two-month lockdown will look like.
Emerging from confinement is "good news", but the prime minister urged caution as the virus continues to claim hundreds of lives per day. On Thursday, the Ministry of Health reported 178 dead (down from 257 on Wednesday,) bringing the total at 25,987.
Plans shown by Health Minister Olivier Véran show that France is cut in two, a green zone and a red zone, according to the suspected presence of the virus, the ability of hospitals to cope with patients in need of intensive care, and the availability of tests for people showing symptoms.
The spread of the virus is now greatly reduced, with the Paris region and the island of Mayotte most affected.
In the red zones, which include Paris, schools will remain closed for most of May, while those people taking public transport will be subjected to strict rules.
Four regions -- Ile-de-France around Paris, Hauts-de-France in the north, Grand Est in the east and the south-eastern Bourgogne-Franche-Comte -- are still classified red, denoting heightened risk.
"There will be certain restrictions," said Philippe of the red zones. "Secondary schools will not open and neither will parks and gardens," he said.
In Ile-de-France "the number of cases remain higher than we would have hoped", Philippe noted.
He said elderly and vulnerable people would not be obliged to stay at home but urged those with medical conditions to exercise caution.
Another hotspot is the island of Mayotte, in the Indian Ocean, where the lockdown has been extended until the end of May.
According to the health minister, France is now "ready to start mass testing" of people who display symptoms of the illness as well as people those with whom they have been in contact.
Véran said that the whole of France now has the capacity to tests, at a rate of around 700,000 per week.
Metro, bus and suburban trains in Paris will be restricted to employees who can show a permit from their company, and only during rush hours.
Transport services will go up from the current 6 percent of normal circulation to 15 percent on Monday, according to Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne, who said working from home should remain the priority for most employees.
Wearing face masks will be mandatory for everyone over the age of 11 on public transport. Non-compliance will be fined 135 euros.
Free masks are being distributed as of 7 May by city administrations all over the Paris region, while metro stations will be equipped with distributors of sanitary hand gel.
Freedom of movement -- within 100 km
All of France, Parisians included, will no longer be required to fill in a travel permission form to leave their houses, with free movement allowed within a distance of 100 km.
People who want to go beyond the 100 km would still need their travel authorisations -- and only in case of emergencies.
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