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Easing Covid-19 lockdown

Great expectations: French PM to announce second phase of easing lockdown

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is to hold a much- anticipated press conference on phase two of lifting lockdown measures, 28 May 2020
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is to hold a much- anticipated press conference on phase two of lifting lockdown measures, 28 May 2020 REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is to announce plans for a second phase of easing lockdown measures on Thursday afternoon. With the number of Covid-19 deaths steadily decreasing, a number of sectors, in particular restaurants and cafés, are hoping to see a return to normal from 2 June.

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Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will attend a special Defence Council meeting today to discuss the country's recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, and around 5pm local time, is expected to announce the next step in a much anticipated process.

There were 66 deaths from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, with 1,501 people in intensive care on Wednesday, 54 less that the day before.

Although the figures since the first phase of lifting lockdown on 11 May are reassuring, the government insists that it's too early to say that the epidemic is over.

Four red zones remain

Four regions of France remain in what is known as a 'red' zone, meaning the virus is still active and pressure remains on health services to deal with the number of patients.

These are Ile-de-France (Paris and its suburbs), Grand-Est, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and the overseas territory of Mayotte.

The rest of the country has been labelled as a green zone, where most economic and social activities are expected to re-open from 2 June.

One of the key issues on the agenda is the much anticipated re-opening of restaurants, cafés and bars which have been closed since the 14 March.

Even if they are allowed to re-open, it will be with strict hygiene guidelines and they may only be able to open to 50 percent capacity in order to respect social distancing.

In the first stage of easing lockdown, small businesses and shops were allowed to open, as well as primary schools and some industries.

The second phase will take into account the possible re-opening of senior highschools, and the organisation of the 'Bac', or final year exam.

Tourism sector

Another key issue on the agenda is the 100 kilometre limit for personal travel, in place since 17 March.

The French tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne feels confident that the radius of a 100 kilometres can be enlarged in a concentric way.

Summer holiday destinations in France are eagerly awaiting Philippe's announcement, whether it be for hotels, beaches, amusement parks and camping sites, all of which are expected to re-open as of 2 June in green zones.

Beaches have already begun to re-open in many locations along the western Atlantic coast albeit with strict rules in place.

As for other leisure activities, the announcement is expected to give an update on the future re-opening of cultural venues such as cinemas, theatres, and concert halls, as well as sports clubs and swimming pools.

On Tuesday, a handful of pools were allowed to re-open with strict hygiene measures in place.

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