Monday, May 11th marked the first day of phase 1 of the lifting of the strict lockdown that has been in place in France since March 17th.
But this is a gradual process and many restrictions remain in place. Phase 1 lasts until June 2nd, but at any stage restrictions could be reimposed if cases spike and there is already a 'reconfinement' plan drawn up to re-impose lockdown if the situation deteriorates.
So what extra things can people in France do during phase 1?
More people are now commuting to work, albeit under strict conditions. Photo: AFP
Chuck out the forms
This is probably the biggest difference – for the eight weeks of lockdown every trip out of the home required filling out an attestation (permission form) first. But now forms are only needed for people travelling on public transport in Paris during rush hour or travelling more than 100km from their homes.
You can also now take trips outside the home in the company of a partner, neighbour or friend.
Go back to work
People who can work at home should continue during phase 1, but for some people whose jobs cannot be done from home, work restarted on May 11th. However many types of business including cafés, bars and restaurants will stay shut.
Travel (within France and up to 100km)
The scope for travel has also widened considerably, whereas before only essential trips outside the home were permitted there is now no restriction on shorter trips and these can be undertaken for any reason.
Anyone who wants to travel more than 100km can do so only for essential reasons and needs a permission form and the government is still asking people to keep their travel to a minimum in order to limit the spread of the virus.
Health minister Olivier Véran said on Sunday: “If you live in an area where the virus is actively circulating, you should not travel to areas where the virus does not circulate since, by definition, that is where you run the risk of spreading the virus more widely.”
If you are travelling on public transport a mask is compulsory.
Shops are reopening. Photo: AFP
Essential shops such as supermarkets, boulangeries and wine merchants remained open throughout the lockdown, but from May 11th a wider range of shops will be open. It is now possible to do a little clothes shopping, browse in a bookstore or buy flowers for loved ones to apologise for all those rows during lockdown.
However shops will still have measures in place to ensure social distancing is respected and businesses have the right to require their customers to wear masks.
Get a haircut
Good news for anyone who looks like Robinson Crusoe after two months of no access to haircare professionals – hair salons can reopen. However, there are strict rules in place to ensure social distancing, including a requirement for all customers to wear masks. Hairdressers are operating on an appointment basis only.
Socialise or date
Bars, cafés and restaurants are still shut, but socialising in groups of 10 or less is now allowed, so going round to see your mates or family members is back on the cards and dating is also now allowed.
However after crowds gathered on the evening of the first day of lockdown lifting, drinking on the banks of the Seine or the Paris canal banks is now banned.
However the government is still advising – although not ordering – people over 65 and in high risk groups to stick to the principle of social isolation and suggests that people do not risk elderly or vulnerable grandparents.
For funerals, a group of 20 people is allowed.
During lockdown, exercise was strictly limited to individual activity for one hour a day within 1km of the home. This restriction has now been lifted, but not all types of exercise is allowed again. Individual exercise is allowed with no time or distance restrictions (apart from the limit of 100km from your home if any ultra-runners are reading) and cycling for exercise purposes is allowed again.
Team sports are still not permitted, although golf and tennis are allowed, and sports centres and gyms will remain shut.
The walkways of the Seine have reopened so you can go and look at the Eiffel Tower, but not climb it. Photo: AFP
Get some culture
Many cultural sites will remain shut, but there will be some reopening – bookshops are allowed to reopen as are smaller museums and galleries where it is possible for people to practice social distancing. Tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower remain closed, but in Paris the walkways along the Seine have reopened if you fancy a stroll (not not a drink – see above).
Go to the countryside
City dwellers can now travel to get a little fresh air and green space with a walk in the country and forests are now reopened.
Gites and B&B businesses that can respect social distancing are also permitted to reopen for people venturing further afield, although it should be noted that the Prime Minister advises “now is not the time for weekend trips”.
However in cities and towns, parks and gardens will reopen only in green zones.
Send (some of) the kids back to school
Schools are reopening very gradually from May 12th, with only some primary and infant classes accepting pupils at first.
Secondary schools will reopen from the end of the month, and only in green zone, and all classes will be smaller than usual. Parents have the final choice over whether to send their children back to school once it reopens.