France reopens its cafés and bars in ‘phase 2’ of lockdown lifting

Cafés and restaurants reopen across France on Tuesday as the country enters 'phase 2' of the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

France reopens its cafés and bars in 'phase 2' of lockdown lifting
Photo: AFP

But in Paris, where the coronavirus remains more active than in the rest of mainland France, cafes, bars and restaurants will be limited to outside terraces.

To cater for the expected rush back to the city's eateries, the city council gave special permission for tables to be placed on sidewalks, parking spots and other public places. Several roads will also be closed to car traffic.

As thousands thronged to the city's parks and gardens which reopened over the weekend, eating and drinking establishments prepared to welcome back customers in the second phase of a step-by-step lifting of lockdown

IN PICTURES: Parisians bask in the sun as parks reopen


“We have spent several hours cleaning,” said Theo Stuzmann, head waiter of the renowned Maison Kammerzell restaurant in Strasbourg, eastern France.

And a second, more thorough disinfection was due before they opened on Tuesday, he told AFP.

“Optimism reigns today,” said Herve Becam of the UMIH hospitality union, welcoming the return of reservations.

French people can again “live a life which is almost normal,” said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe last week, as he announced the reopenings.

The government credits France's strict lockdown, which lasted from March 17th to May 11th, with saving thousands of lives by relieving pressure on hospitals, but is eager to restart an economy devastated by the measures.

The country, which has suffered nearly 29,000 deaths, also faces an “historic recession”, says Philippe, and a sharp rise in unemployment claims.

The spread of the virus appears to be under control in most of France, designated “green zones'.

MAP France divided into green and orange zones as restrictions loosen

But the Paris Ile-de-France region and the overseas territories of Guiana and Mayotte, still in the higher-risk “orange” category, face a slower easing of the lockdown restrictions.

Across the country, public gatherings of more than 10 people are still banned until June 21st. And people still have to wear masks in public transport, stations and airports.

People can dine together in restaurants in groups of no more than 10, but with a minimum one-metre distance between tables.   

But all beaches can reopen from Tuesday, and weddings can once again be celebrated, albeit with a limited guest list.

Primary and middle schools will open countrywide, as well as high schools in green zones – but progressively and with a limited number of pupils per class.

Epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet, a member of the scientific council advising the government, struck a note of caution.

“Every day, there are five new (outbreak) clusters… we have had more than 100 clusters declared since May 11, so we can see that the virus is still present,” he warned on BFMTV.

France's StopCovid mobile app, that will alert users if they have been in close proximity of someone tested positive, will also come into use on Tuesday.

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French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.