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Exiting Lockdown

France to gradually lift lockdown from 11 May, Paris still restricted

Synthesis of three projections: spread of the virus, capacity of hospitals, availability of tests
Synthesis of three projections: spread of the virus, capacity of hospitals, availability of tests © French Health Ministry, screengrab BFM tv

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.

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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. 

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe looks on as he presents the details for the end of the country's lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Hotel Matignon in Paris, France May 7, 2020.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe looks on as he presents the details for the end of the country's lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Hotel Matignon in Paris, France May 7, 2020. © Christophe Archambault/Pool via REUTERS

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.

Active spread of the virus as presented by the French Ministery of Health on May 7, 2020.
Active spread of the virus as presented by the French Ministery of Health on May 7, 2020. © French Health Ministry, screen grab BFM tv

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.

Map showing regions where hospitals have sufficient (green) or few (orange) ventilators or other IC equipment to deal with patients infected with the coronavirus, while hospitals in regions coloured red have difficulty to cope.
Map showing regions where hospitals have sufficient (green) or few (orange) ventilators or other IC equipment to deal with patients infected with the coronavirus, while hospitals in regions coloured red have difficulty to cope. © French Health Ministry, screen grab BFM tv

"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.

Mass testing

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.

Public transport

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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