France plans phasing out of lockdown since May 11, but cafes will remain closed

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PARIS – France will begin easing its coronavirus lockdown from May 11 to avoid an economic crisis, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Tuesday, but warned that infections would rise again if the country moved too quickly.

Schools will gradually reopen and businesses will be free to resume operations, said Philippe in a speech to Parliament.

However, restaurants and cafes will remain closed until at least early June, and professional sports, including football, will not resume until the fall.

“We must protect the French people without paralyzing France to the point that it is collapsing,” said Philippe. “A little too carefree and the epidemic takes off again. Too much caution and the whole country loops. “

More than 23,000 people died during the pandemic in France, the fourth global death toll after the United States, Italy and Spain. But the foreclosure has saved tens of thousands of lives, the prime minister said.

The number of patients hospitalized in France with COVID-19, the highly contagious lung disease caused by the new coronavirus, decreased daily for two weeks, while the number of patients in intensive care decreased for 19 consecutive days.

The easing would be supported by an aggressive program of testing and isolation, said Philippe.

The government was ready to slow or delay the progress if the infection rate increased significantly more, he said, with administrative services divided into “red” and “green” zones.

The government will take advantage of the slower spread of the virus to save a plummeting economy, although Philippe said the French should adapt to a new way of life.

“We will have to learn to live with the virus,” he said. “We must learn to live with COVID-19 and to protect ourselves from it.”

TEST, INSULATED

France’s plan to ease the lockdown reflects a balancing act, with the government wishing to ease the growing frustration of people locked in their homes since mid-March without increasing the risk of a second wave of infections.

France will implement a new doctrine on COVID-19 tests from May 11 with the aim of testing all those who have come into contact with infected people, said Philippe. It aimed for a test capacity of 700,000 per week.

“Once a person has tested positive, we will begin to identify and test all those, symptomatic or not, who have been in close contact with them. All these contact cases will be tested and will be asked to isolate themselves, “said Philippe.

He said primary schools in the country could reopen from May 11 and secondary schools from May 18 in areas with low infection rates. Classes would only resume if there were no more than 15 students in class at a time and high school students would have to wear masks.

Businesses should consider working remotely for at least a week after May 11, and anyone traveling on public transportation or in a taxi should also wear a mask.

The ban on professional sports disrupts the 2019-2020 Ligue 1 season and impacts the already delayed Tour de France, which was postponed to August.

A vote will be taken on the measures proposed by the government after a two and a half hour debate, with only 75 of the 577 parliamentarians of the National Assembly sitting in the chamber to respect the rules of social distancing.

(Report by Richard Lough, Matthieu Protard, Leigh Thomas and Michel Rose, edited by Angus MacSwan)

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