COVID-19 RECOVERY

French cafes, cinemas and museums reopen after six-month slumber

A customer is served at a cafe in Paris on May 19, 2021.
A customer is served at a cafe in Paris on May 19, 2021. AFP - GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT

On a big day for France, restaurants and cultural venues were enjoying a busy trade Wednesday following a Covid-enforced hiatus that kept them closed for more than six months. Shops have also reopened, while a nationwide curfew was extended to 9pm.  

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Excited customers were served their first breakfasts "en terrasse" – under cloudy skies that threatened rain – at tables that spilled onto pavements and onto makeshift platforms on city streets.

President Emmanuel Macron urged people to remain "cautious" and "act collectively" to stay on top of the epidemic as he joined Prime Minister Jean Castex for a coffee at Parisian cafe near the Elysée Palace.

Closed since 30 October, 2020, restaurants and bars – many of which have been booked out – are allowed to welcome maximum tables of six people, but only outside and with appropriate social-distancing.

Larger establishments must stick to 50 percent capacity, while those with fewer than 10 tables must separate tables with plants or Plexiglas.

While some owners are delighted with the return of business, others say it will not be profitable and have refused to reopen until 9 June, when customers will be allowed to sit inside.

Return of culture

There were cheers and clapping as the first visitors entered the Louvre, the world's most visited museum. Along with other cultural venues, it's allowed to welcome one person for every 8 square metres of exhibition space.

Meanwhile long queues were seen forming outside cinemas in the French capital, which reopened at 35 percent capacity, with a minimum distance of one seat or one metre to be respected between each person or each group.  

Also joining the full unlocking of the French economy were non-essential businesses, whose doors have remained closed since the end of March.

Shops have been given the same restrictions as museums, which will be challenging for small outlets only able to allow in two or three customers at a time. 

Fall in Covid patients

Over the weekend France met its mid-May target of administering vaccine doses to 20 million people – a third of the population.

Public health figures Tuesday showed the number of Covid patients in intensive care units continued to fall - down to 4,015 compared with 4,186 the day before. 

The number of overall Covid patients in French hospitals – just over 22,000 – is at its lowest since late October, 2020.

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