France lifted its lockdown on December 15th – albeit with plenty of restrictions still in place including an 8pm curfew – and people can now travel to spend Christmas with their families.
However there has been concern that more restrictions would be imposed as case numbers began to climb again.
But on Monday, Health Minister Olivier Véran ruled out any réconfinement (reimposing lockdown) before Christmas.
He said: “Several neighbouring countries had to lock down again very quickly before Christmas.
Plusieurs pays voisins ont dû reconfiner très vite avant Noël. En France, le confinement précoce et efficace nous permet de respirer en cette fin d'année. Mais soyons très vigilants les uns avec les autres, les uns pour les autres. @Europe1 pic.twitter.com/yzRYp2NRJ3
— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) December 21, 2020
“In France, early and effective containment allows us to breathe at the end of the year. But let's be very vigilant with each other, for each other.”
He added in the interview with Europe 1 radio: “We're not on a slope [upwards], we've been on a straight line for about a fortnight now, that is to say that the virus is no longer decreasing, but neither are we in a massive increase.”
Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal also confirmed that there were no immediate plans for a third lockdown.
France locked down for a second time on October 30th, when the daily rate of new cases spiked at 50,000.
Despite the second lockdown being more relaxed than the one in spring, and schools staying open, cases fell rapidly to around 10,000 a day by the end of November.
Cases in France spiked at the end of October then fell sharply during lockdown before plateauing at the end of November and missing the 5,000 target. Graphic: French health ministry
However, they stagnated at 10,000 and the government missed its target of 5,000 a day to lift lockdown.
The decision was taken to lift lockdown anyway with stricter measures in place, including an 8pm curfew that will only be lifted on December 24th.
Since then, case numbers have seen a small but sustained increase and now stand at an average of around 12,000 a day.
Health data for Sunday showed 12,799 new cases – although there is often a lag in reporting over the weekend – and 2,754 Covid patients in intensive care, representing 54.3 percent of the country's capacity.
Health officials are also worried about a 'Thanksgiving effect' after the Christmas holidays, as cases in the USA saw a big spike after the Thanksgiving holiday when people travelled to see loved ones.
People who are travelling to see friends and family in France have been advised to self-isolate for eight days before travel. Pre-travel tests are available in pharmacies, but people are advised not to use these as a 'totem of immunity' and abandon health measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing.
Many are already predicting a third lockdown in France in January if there is a spike in cases after the holidays.
At present cultural centres like cinemas, theatres and museums are due to reopen on January 7th and bars and restaurants on January 20th, although ministers have warned that neither of these things will happen if the health situation does not permit.