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French MPs back prime minister's plan to cast off coronavirus lockdown

French MPs expressed support for the plans of prime minister Edouard Philippe to lead France back to work.
French MPs expressed support for the plans of prime minister Edouard Philippe to lead France back to work. REUTERS - POOL
2 min

France’s Assemblée nationale on Tuesday backed prime minister Edouard Philippe’s vision for the country to emerge from a two-month lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Due to social distancing rules, only 75 MPs were in the chamber on Tuesday afternoon when Philippe delivered a 61 minute speech outlining how France would be shunted back towards work and school.

However, 368 voted for his range of proposals. There were 100 against and 103 abstentions.

Left of centre MPs were among those who disagreed with the prime minister’s plan which envisages a gradual return to what has been deemed normality from 11 May.

Shops, markets and some schools will reopen. But the hurly-burly of quotidian French life will be drastically different.

Change of approach

Distances will have to be strictly observed and face masks will be compulsory on public transport where crowding will be discouraged.

Pupils aged 11-15 will also have to wear masks when they are at school. Once on site, they will find their classes slashed in half as teachers - also wearing masks - provide online lessons for the rest of the group.

Philippe said the French would have to learn to live with the virus because a permanent lockdown was not possible.

"We must protect the French without immobilising France to the point that it collapses," Philippe told MPs.

"A little too much carelessness, and the epidemic restarts. A little too much caution, and the entire country sinks."

But restaurants and bars will remain closed until at least the end of May, likewise large museums, cinemas, theatres and concert halls.

There will be no sports events or festivals gathering more than 5,000 people until at least September. Professional football, rugby and other sports cannot resume until the end of the summer, the premier said.

   

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