“I can’t tell you with certainty that we will reopen bars and restaurants on January 20th, it would be dishonest of me,” Bruno Le Maire told France Info on Monday, the day before France was due to exit its second nationwide lockdown this year.
The government decided to lift lockdown on December 15th and replace it with a nighttime curfew, despite not having achieved the goal of reducing Covid-19 case numbers below 5,000 per day.
Bars and restaurants must remain shut until at least January 20th and the culture sector's reopening date was pushed back from December 15th until at least January 7th.
But the government has stressed that reopening the remaining sectors will depend on the health situation.
Déconfinement : “Je ne peux pas vous dire avec certitude que nous rouvrirons les bars et les restaurants le 20 janvier”, déclare le ministre de l'Économie Bruno Le Mairehttps://t.co/2sYqB2sEeb pic.twitter.com/QZAC7ppnwZ
— franceinfo (@franceinfo) December 14, 2020
Since France's second lockdown began on October 30th, cases fell rapidly from a peak of 50,000 a day.
At the end of November, the government set a target of 5,000 cases a day to lift lockdown, and also stated that cases would have to remain under 5,000 for bars and restaurants to reopen in January.
But recently the drop in cases following the lockdown has stagnated. Since December 9th, France has registered around between 13,000 and 14,000 new Covid-19 cases each day, nearly three times the set goal of 5,000.
“The virus is still circulating and unfortunately it is circulating quite quickly,” said Eric Caumes, infectious disease specialist at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris.
The fear is that increased socialising and travel over the Christmas break could double or even treble the number of daily cases, which again could cause hospital numbers to rise in the ensuing weeks.
“We all fear a re-acceleration during the holidays. I think we are unanimous on that point,” Caumes told BFMTV.
Covid-19: le Pr Éric Caumes dit craindre “une réaccélération” de l'épidémie à l'occasion des fêtes pic.twitter.com/qpZl5MNTE6
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) December 14, 2020
If Covid-19 numbers spike, bars and restaurants, but also cinemas, theatres and other cultural spots, might not get to reopen as planned in January.
“We will review the possibility to reopen (cultural establishments) as of January 7th,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said when he laid out the weeks ahead during the press conference on Thursday.
Reopening of the cultural sector would depend on “the health situation and the analysis that we can do of the impact of the end-of-the-year celebrations on the epidemic,” the PM said.
The same would be the case for cafés, bars and restaurant, which currently may only keep a delivery or take-away service.
Both the cultural sector and the restaurant sector are reeling from the financial losses they have suffered due to the pandemic.
“I will meet with (restaurant sector) representatives in the coming weeks. . . to see how we can accompany them long term,” Le Maire said on Monday, referring to the aid schemes in place to help those affected by the lockdown.