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Lifting lockdown

France eases beach lockdowns on Atlantic coast – with conditions

French seaside resorts have suffered from a drop in tourism due to lockdown. Regional authorities are now gradually re-opening beaches which have been closed to the public.
French seaside resorts have suffered from a drop in tourism due to lockdown. Regional authorities are now gradually re-opening beaches which have been closed to the public. © AFP

As France gradually lifts its Covid-19 lockdown, one of the questions on many people's minds is, when can we go to the beach? The issue is being addressed on a case by case basis in concerned regions. Many beaches along the Atlantic coast have been given the green light, albeit with restrictions.

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Desperate to make the most of the spring weather, locals in coastal regions across France have been rejoicing at the reopening of many beaches and seaside areas that had been off-limits, despite the lockdown easing on Monday. 

The situation is constantly evolving and police departments of each region are processing requests made by mayors and updating maps each day.

Many of the beaches in Brittany, western France, a "green" low-risk Covid-19 zone, began re-opening on Wednesday, while those on the Mediterranean coast are still waiting for the all-clear.

Southern beaches still off-limits

In the southern Bouches-du-Rhône area, no beaches are permitted to open before 25 May – or as late as 1 June in Marseille.

In most cases, users of beachside areas must "stay active", that means moving from one point to another for exercise, therefore excluding sunbathing or picnics.

Walking, jogging, swimming and individual water sports are allowed, while sitting on the beach is tolerated up to 20 minutes.

Mayors are entrusted with the responsibility of posting a notice explaining the rules at the entrances to the beaches.

Police in Brittany tweeted that 31 beaches would open in Ile-et-Vilaine from Saturday, and listed the conditions of access.

They warned that festive gatherings and the consumption of alcohol will not be tolerated.

Visitors could also risk a fine of 135 euros if social distancing and other hygiene precautions are not respected.

Colour-coded activities

Some beaches will be open only in the morning, such as the resort of Deauville, Normandy, from 6-9am for walking and training horses. For others beaches, like Cabourg, certain water activities are permitted such as kite-surfing, sailing and stand-up paddle boarding.

The Morbihan department in Brittany will dedicate some seaside to "active" use, such as jogging (indicated below in pink), other areas are for "static" activities (orange) such as sunbathing and others for water sports (blue).

While some mayors have questioned why their beaches were not permitted to open immediately, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has reiterated that coastal leisure areas would open on a case by case basis.

Elsewhere, such as in the northern Pas-de-Calais (Hauts-de-France region) walking trails and nature reserves such as Nord de Berck dunes and the Maroeuil Forest have been re-opened as of Friday, according to local media.

The beaches remain closed for the time being.

Future of French holidays?

The French public and the tourism sector are still wondering what kind of summer holidays they will be able to enjoy as the country monitors the Covid-19 epidemic.

President Emmanuel Macron has already hinted at travel overseas being off-limits, with some exceptions made for European frontiers, but conditions will have to be agreed upon with other member states in the coming weeks.

The French rail operator SNCF on Thursday opened its summer period online bookings, with only one seat out of two sold, in line with social distancing measures.

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