Aggressive tests key to France’s plan to end coronavirus lockdown

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France will adopt an aggressive new regime for COVID-19 testing on May 11 so that it can slowly reverse its lockout against coronaviruses and avoid an economic crisis, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said on Tuesday.

The government has set a target of carrying out at least 700,000 tests per week, he said. Once a person tests positive, tracing would begin to identify, test and isolate all those who had been in close contact with the individual, with the state covering the full cost of the test.

“When we end the lockout, we will have the capacity to massively expand testing,” said Philippe in a speech to Parliament.

France performs around 200,000 tests per week, far less than its German neighbor.

Philippe said the foreclosure had saved tens of thousands of lives, but that the time had come to ease unprecedented peacetime restrictions and save a plummeting economy.

A woman wearing a face mask walks a street during nationwide containment measures in Paris. The French Prime Minister says that stores will be able to ask customers to wear a mask on May 11. (Thibault Camus / The Associated Press)

However, he warned that the infection rate would increase if France moved too quickly and people became complacent.

“We are on the razor’s edge. I have to choose between bad decisions, “he said, shortly before Parliament voted in favor of his plans.

France’s health ministry said the country’s death toll rose to 23,660 on Tuesday, the fourth in the world behind the United States, Italy and Spain.

However, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in France decreased daily for two weeks, while the number of patients in intensive care decreased for 19 consecutive days.

France’s new testing regime will be implemented as the country begins to loosen the lockout restrictions on May 11. However, the schedule depends on the number of new coronavirus infections remaining below 3,000 per day, said the Prime Minister.

“If the indicators are not correct, we will not undo the May 11 lockdown, or we will do it more strictly,” he said.

The number of new confirmed cases fell below 3,000 on April 15. In the past seven days, the average number of new cases per day has been around 1,500.

Homework is always encouraged wherever possible

The Prime Minister said that if May 11 were feasible, non-essential French retailers could reopen on that date, but they would have the right to insist that buyers wear masks on the spot.

Philippe said that services in the Paris metro would be increased to allow people to commute to work while observing physical distance, and that restrictions would remain in place for long distance train travel. Whenever possible, people should continue working from home after May 11, he said.

Gatherings of more than 10 people inside or outside will remain prohibited and the beaches will remain closed to the public until at least June 1.

Philippe has promised that enough masks will be available to all citizens from May 11. His government called on all businesses to provide workers with masks and would help small businesses get them if necessary.

Masks will also be available on the post office website.

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe delivers his speech to present to the National Assembly on Tuesday the government’s plan to unblock the country’s foreclosure against coronaviruses. (David Niviere / Reuters)

Kindergartens and elementary schools will reopen across the country on May 11, but on a voluntary basis. Beginning May 18, the government will consider opening colleges in districts with low virus outbreaks and will decide in late May whether high schools can be opened in early June.

Kindergartens will not be allowed to wear masks to prevent abuse, and the government will make masks available to school children who cannot obtain them themselves.

Class sizes will be maintained at 15 students per class and distance education will remain free for students staying at home.

However, some lawmakers and opposition experts have questioned the practicality of reopening schools and the widespread use of public transport.

Fans of Ligue 1 football and other professional sports have received bad, but not entirely unexpected, news from Philippe.

“The 2019-2020 professional sports season, especially the soccer season, will not be able to resume,” he said, adding that September was the earliest possible date.

There were about 10 games left in the best table in France, while his main rugby league was in the semi-finals of the playoffs.

Philippe’s speech was to be followed by a debate and a vote in the evening, with only 75 of the 577 National Assembly lawmakers sitting in the chamber respecting the rules of physical distancing.

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