Macron charts way out of France’s third lockdown

France to start relaxing curfew and allow cafes, bars and restaurants to serve outside from May 19th

 French president Emmanuel Macron removing his mask before addressing the press in the courtyard of the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on April 29th. Photograph:  Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

French president Emmanuel Macron removing his mask before addressing the press in the courtyard of the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on April 29th. Photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

 

France will start relaxing a nightly curfew and allow cafes, bars and restaurants to offer outside service from May 19th, as President Emmanuel Macron charts a way out of a third Covid-19 lockdown.

Mr Macron, who is under pressure from business groups and a Covid-weary public to open up the economy again, announced in an interview with the regional papers a four-phase plan for unwinding France’s month-long stay-at-home order.

The easing will come despite the numbers of new daily cases and Covid-19 patients being treated in intensive care being far higher than when the two previous lockdowns were rolled back. Mr Macron said the vaccine rollout made this possible.

“I have never gambled on the health and safety of our citizens,” Mr Macron said. “I take responsibility for the choices I make, but these are never bets.”

The plan envisages the nightly curfew being pushed back to 9pm from 7pm from May 19th, and to 11pm from June 9th, before being scrapped completely on June 30th.

Museums, cinemas and theatres will also be allowed to reopen on May 19th.

Foreign tourists with a “health pass” will be allowed to visit France again from June 9th, according to the timetable published by Ouest France and other newspapers.

The timetable is provisional, and could be delayed on a region-by-region basis in areas where intensive care units are close to saturation or the Covid-19 incidence rate exceeds 400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

“We will be able to pull an emergency brake in territories where the virus is too present,” Mr Macron said.

Incidence rate

The incidence rate in Paris and its surrounds was an average 459 per 100,000 people in the seven days up to April 25th and is falling, data showed. Ile de France is home to nearly a fifth of France’s population, and accounts for 30 per cent of economic activity.

About 22 per cent of all French citizens have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a Reuters tracker.

Mr Macron said accelerating the rollout in France, Europe and in developing countries was paramount to pushing back against the virus.

On opening up the vaccine to more people in France, he said Covid shots would be made available to all obese adults from May 1st.

He said France could use a digital or paper-based “health pass” to help curb the spread of the virus at events with large crowds, such as sports stadiums or festivals. But it would not be right to use them at everyday venues like restaurants or cinemas.

“A health pass will never be a right of access that differentiates the French,” the president said. “As it pertains to public liberties, parliament will debate the matter.”

France’s main Covid-19 indicators all showed some signs of improvement on Wednesday, with the seven-day moving average of daily new infections falling to 27,366 compared with 38,000 when the lockdown began.

France has recorded 5.57 million Covid-19 cases and 103,947 deaths since the start of the pandemic. – Reuters