The wearing of the mask is compulsory in public transport, in schools while France relaxes the lock

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France will begin a gradual but “risky” return to normalcy on May 11, with the reopening of stores, markets and some schools after an eight-week closure against coronaviruses, which would have saved more than 60,000 lives, said Tuesday Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

But life will no longer be as before, with the mandatory masks in public transport, work at home strongly encouraged for several weeks, and restaurants and cafes – quintessential of the French way of life – remain closed.

The French “will have to learn to live with the virus,” said Philippe, urging strict and permanent respect for social distancing and personal hygiene measures to minimize new infections, without any vaccine or treatment proven to date.

At the same time, France cannot afford an “indefinite” lockdown, said Philippe.

Non-essential businesses have been closed since March 17, with people being confined to their homes, except for essential business.

“We must protect the French without immobilizing France to the point that it collapses,” said Philippe at the National Assembly, which must vote on its proposed measures.

People wearing a protective mask and an alternative mask arrive at Gare Saint Lazare station in Paris, France, 28 April 2020.People wearing a protective mask and an alternative mask arrive at Gare Saint Lazare station in Paris, France, 28 April 2020.

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It is necessary, declared the Prime Minister, “to proceed gradually, carefully, but also resolutely to lift the lock, both expected and risky”.

Thin line

Philippe said the government is going on a fine line. “A little too much neglect, and the epidemic begins again. A little too careful, and the whole country sinks. “

Only 75 of the 577 legislators in the assembly were present for the Prime Minister’s speech, with several empty seats between them, in accordance with anti-virus social distancing measures.

The National Assembly on Tuesday evening approved the government plan by 368 votes to 100, with 103 abstentions.

France reported Tuesday 367 new deaths from coronaviruses, bringing the total number of 23,660 deaths since March 1. But there has been an encouraging downward trend in the number of people in intensive care, with 221 fewer than the day before.

Philippe cited a study showing that the French foreclosure had prevented 62,000 deaths in a month and avoided the demand for more than 100,000 intensive care hospital beds.

But it also dealt a severe blow to the economy, with an historic contraction of 8% in economic output forecast for this year and a record rise in unemployment of 7.1% in March.

“Firm request”

Prime Minister said retailers and fresh produce markets could reopen from May 11, when easing of the lockdown officially begins, with strict distancing measures to prevent too many people from gathering in the same place at the same time.

But restaurants and bars will remain closed for the time being, as will major museums, cinemas, theaters and concert halls.

Primary schools and kindergartens can reopen gradually from May 11, followed by high schools the following week, but only in areas not hard hit by the epidemic.

There cannot be more than 15 students in a class, said the Prime Minister.

Philippe said public parks and gardens may open in areas with no active virus circulation, but beaches will remain closed until June 1.

People who are able to work from home should continue to do so after May 11, at least for three weeks, and Philippe sent a “firm request” to companies to comply with this directive.

For those who have no choice, limited public transportation will be available, but users will be forced to wear face masks, said Philippe.

Long distance travel will be discouraged.

There will be no sporting events or festivals gathering more than 5,000 people until at least September. Professional football, rugby and other sports cannot resume until the end of the summer, said the Prime Minister.

Lock can be extended

The distribution of face masks, which were scarce and limited to medical personnel, will be expanded with sales to the general public. France will receive 100 million surgical masks and some 20 million non-medical reusable masks every week, the Prime Minister announced.

He said there will be enough masks for everyone who needs them and a national capacity to perform some 700,000 viral tests per week.

Those who are positive for COVID-19 will be isolated and the people with whom they have been in contact will be traced and also tested.

No religious ceremony will be allowed until June 2, said Philippe. The funeral will remain limited to 20 people and weddings will continue to be postponed for the time being.

All gatherings, whether public or private, should be limited to 10 people, he added.

The Prime Minister warned that the lockdown could be extended at the last minute, and urged people to continue to adhere to the containment rules so as not to start a new wave of infection.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 meters from others and gatherings are limited to two people, unless you are with your family or household.

If you think you have the virus, call your doctor (do not visit) or contact the national coronavirus health information hotline at 1800 020 080. If you have trouble breathing or have a medical emergency, call the 000.

SBS is committed to keeping various Australian communities informed of the latest developments in COVID-19. News and information is available in 63 languages ​​at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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