The whole of France has been under ‘partial lockdown’ since April 3rd, with non-essential shops closed and a 10km limit on travel.
Some dates or the reopening have already been confirmed while others are yet to be announced.
Here’s what we know about the plans:
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Primary schools and crèches reopened as planned after the rescheduled Easter break.
Secondary and high schools (collèges and lycées) will have a further week of distance learning and then restart in-person teaching from Monday, May 3rd.
The 10km limit on travel will be scrapped from May 3rd and there will be no more need for attestations, prime minister Jean Castex announced. Travel throughout France for any reason will be allowed, which will enable foreign tourists to come again.
This is the date when the reopening is set to begin, with café and bar terraces set to be among the first phases of the plan.
However this seems likely to be done on a regional basis, with areas with low Covid rates reopening first.
“I don’t think we will be able to open restaurants in, say, late May or in June, in départments where the virus is circulating quickly,” Macron told journalists on Monday.
“But in others, where [the circulation] has fallen a lot, I think we’ll have to open them.”
So people living in Paris and north-east France probably shouldn’t get too excited about drinking rosé or beers en terrasse just yet.
The government is also under pressure from the owners of businesses deemed non-essential to allow them to reopen as early as possible – protests have included posting women’s underwear to Prime Minister Jean Castex.
According to French media Le Point, if the situation allows, the government’s plan is to allow café terraces in areas with low rates to begin to reopen from Monday, May 17th. Under the plan, allowing customers into the interior of cafés and restaurants is provisionally set for between June 1st and June 15th, again on a regional basis.
Cultural venues such as museums and tourist sites are also among those being talked about in the first phase of reopening.
President Macron will participate in a test concert in Paris set to take place on May 29th, according Le Journal Du Dimanche. Five thousand masked people will listen to the group Indochine play in Accor Arena, in an experiment that will be closely monitored by health authorities. All participants will have to get tested before the event.
Meanwhile culture minister Roselyne Bachelot has repeatedly said that monuments, castles, abbeys and other heritage buildings would be among the first venues to reopen, suggesting a date as early as May 15th.
Possible changes to the curfew? Macron apparently told a group of local mayors on a video meeting that he wants to continue the curfew until ‘at least June’.
How will it happen?
In March, organisations representing hotel and restaurant professionals said in a statement that they were working with the Ministry of the Economy to reopen in three stages.
The first phase would allow customers to have breakfast in the dining room, while the second would see terraces as well as cafés and restaurants reopening at 50 percent capacity. The third phase would be a “complete opening of the establishments, without limits, but always respecting the reinforced sanitary protocol”.
It is likely that cafés and bars will see similar restrictions to those that were in place last summer – restrictions on customer numbers, no bar service, masks compulsory unless seated etc.
The other main plank is the reopening strategy is vaccination – 20 million people in France will have received the anti-Covid vaccine by mid-May if government targets are achieved, with 30 million getting the jab by the summer.
What about this summer?
Government spokesman Attal told BFMTV: “Our wish is that the French can spend as normal a summer as possible.”
The summer of 2020 saw most things reopening, with cafés and restaurants at first only opening terraces before fully reopening, and all types of travel allowed before the country entered its second lockdown on October 29th. All bars, cafés, restaurants, gyms, cultural spaces and tourist sites have been closed since October.
The Scientific Council, which advises the French government on its Covid-19 policies, has sounded a note of caution about reopening too quickly, given that case numbers are still very high.
“The intensity and nature of the control measures implemented over the next two months are a key element in anticipating the state of the pandemic in June 2021,” the body said in a statement.
It noted that last summer, new daily cases of Covid-19 were averaging below 500, but soared as new variants arrived in France.
“It would be wrong to think that the state of the epidemic in June 2021 will necessarily be identical to what it was in June 2020,” it warned.
The development of the EU vaccine passport scheme also means that at least some international tourism into France will be possible this summer.