France will start easing its COVID-19 lockdown this weekend

AP

The plan is that by Christmas, shops, theatres and cinemas will reopen and people will be able to spend the holiday with their families, President Emmanuel Macron said.

In a televised address to the nation, Macron said the worst of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in France was over, but that restaurants, cafes and bars would have to stay shut until January 20 to avoid triggering a third wave.

“We must do everything to avoid a third wave, do everything to avoid a third lockdown,” Macron said.

After curfew measures in major French cities in mid-October failed to produce the results the government had hoped for, it imposed a one-month lockdown on October 30, albeit less strict than a lockdown that ran from March 17 to May 11.

Positive trends including a decline in hospitalisations for COVID-19 infections, combined with pressure from business lobbies who say they are facing financial ruin, have led to calls to start loosening the lockdown as soon as possible.

Macron’s government is keen to stress to people they should expect only a gradual reopening of the economy.

On Saturday, shops will reopen but people will still need a document to venture out. They will now be allowed to exercise for three hours instead of one, and within a 20km radius of their homes, versus the 1 km allowed now.

In mid-December, the lockdown will be lifted if the number of new cases has fallen to around 5,000 a day, Macron said, but a curfew would be imposed from 9:00pm.

France registered over 9,000 cases on Tuesday, and crossed the 50,000 deaths milestone.

Reuters



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