France - Curfew

Curfew lifted in France ahead of midsummer music festival

People dance at part of last year's French midsummer music festival, "Fete de la musique" in Paris.
People dance at part of last year's French midsummer music festival, "Fete de la musique" in Paris. AFP - ABDULMONAM EASSA

As health indicators improve, the French nationwide curfew was lifted on Sunday, marking a new stage in the slow return to pre-Covid normality. The move came on the eve of the annual Fête de la Musique, celebrated across the country every year on midsummer's day, 21 June.  

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For the first time since 30 October 2020 (with a brief exception at Christmas), the French will be able to enjoy their evenings for as long as they like, starting on Sunday - 10 days earlier than planned.

France has been one of the last countries to maintain a curfew along with Italy and Greece.

Initially introduced at 9pm, it was gradually brought forward to 6pm in mid-January before being pushed back to 7pm in March, 9pm in May and 11pm on 9 June.

The announcement was made by the government last Wednesday, ahead of its declatration that the obligatory wearing of masks outdoors was being scrapped as of Thursday.

PM Castex denies political point-scoring

Many among the opposition in France have been sceptical of the motivation behind the move, in view of the first round of regional elections which took place on Sunday.

Rejecting comments that the further lifting of restrictions was a political "gift", Prime Minister Jean Castex said it was justified due to the "faster than hoped-for improvement in the health situation". 

"With 2,000 to 3,000 cases a day, it is no longer the virus that is tracking us, it is us that are tracking it," Health Minister Olivier Véran told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Meanwhile the vaccination campaign is continuing, with France on target to have 35 million people fully vaccinated by the end of August.

Figures released on Saturday indicate that 18 million French people are already fully vaccinated.

Nightclubs opening this summer

However, vigilance continues and the health regulations in public places and at outdoor events remain in place until 30 June.

With mini-concerts authorised in bars and restaurants, the Fête de la Musique will return to its familiar format on Monday, but the wearing of masks is still recommended outside during concerts. Gatherings of more than ten people in public are still forbidden

Yet the real return to pre-pandemic nightlife will be through the reopening of nightclubs over the summer. Such venues have been completely shut down for the past 15 months.

On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron is expected to meet with concert promoters and the nightclub owners to discuss health regulations, ventilation systems and a potential "health pass" to allow clubs reopen.

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