France to begin easing of Covid lockdown on 19th May
French cafes, restaurants, cinemas and other cultural venues and businesses that have been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic will reopen in several stages from 19 May, President Emmanuel Macron has told the press, ahead of his official announcement on Friday.
Museums, theatres, cinemas and concert halls will reopen on 19 May, along with non-essential shops and outdoor seating at cafes and restaurants, Macron told regional French newspapers in a highly-anticipated announcement on Thursday.
Cafes, restaurants will have to wait until 9 June, however, to be allowed to serve clients indoors, with limited numbers until the end of June he added. Gyms will be able to reopen from this date as well.
Macron also gave a timetable for lifting a night-time curfew which has turned French cities into ghost towns after 7pm.
He said that the curfew would be eased progressively - to 9pm on 19 May and 11pm on 9 June - before being fully lifted on 30 June.
Some restrictions have already been relaxed in recent days.
Primary schools reopened on Monday after a three-week shutdown, with secondary schools to follow suit next week, when restrictions on travel around the country will also be lifted.
But the French had been particularly anxious to know when the cafes and museums that are central to French culture, and which have been closed since 30 October, would reopen.
Macron said it was time to start "resuming our French-style way of life", citing the need for "conviviality", culture and sport.
But people needed to remain "careful and responsible", he said.
He suggested that 'health passes' may come into use in crowded places such as festivals or stadiums later this year.
An experiment is underway to add a vaccination certificate or negative test result to TousAntiCovid phone app.
Macron, who is expected to seek re-election next year, drew strong criticism for rejecting calls by medical experts to order a third national lockdown in late January to bring down a stubbornly high coronavirus caseload.
Two months later he finally relented, but the third confinement period was more relaxed than others.
In the interview with regional media he defended his handling of the health crisis.
"We were enlightened by science and took the decision to prioritise the human aspect above all," he said.
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