Castex told a press conference there had been a “genuine fall in the circulation of the virus over the last 10 days”, confirming that restrictions confining people to a 10-kilometre radius of their homes would be dropped from May 3rd.
When France was placed into partial lockdown at the start of April it was intended to be a short-term measure to halt the growth of Covid cases and relieve pressure on hospitals.
Although case numbers remain high and some hospitals under severe pressure, the rates have stopped rising and have plateaued, which the government believes to be enough to begin a gradual reopening.
Castex confirmed that, from May 3rd, attestations (permission forms) will no longer be required for outings longer than 10km from the home, and there would be no limit on how far people can travel from home.
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However he didn’t give a date for when the nationwide nighttime curfew, that has been in place since December, would end.
“The curfew will be maintained until further notice,” Castex said.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin also laid out the conditions for the strict new quarantine in place from Saturday for arrivals from India, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and South Africa as well as the French overseas territory of French Guiana (full details below).
PM Castex also confirmed that further reopening of things like shops and café terraces would be done on a localised basis, because of the wide variation in case numbers between regions of France.
The prime minister said: “We want to begin (easing lockdown) around mid-May. But due to the fragile health situation, it needs to be done progressively.”
He said the reopening “could start with café and bar terraces, certain sporting and cultural activities and certain shops.
“The list is not final, and it could be done through a regionalised framework,” he said.
A fuller timetable will come “in the coming days”, he added. French media have reported that President Emmanuel Macron intends to make another televised announcement to lay out the full timetable.
Primary schools would reopen on Monday April 26th the government confirmed with secondary schools reopening one week later on May 3rd. Although in départements where the virus is still circulating widely such as Paris and the surrounding area only 50 percent of classes in some year groups would return to in-school classes. The other 50 percent of pupils would continue distance learning.
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer confirmed that string health protocol would remain in place in schools and that classes would close as soon as one Covid case was detected. Some 400,000 Covid tests would be carried out in schools and auto-tests would be made available to staff and high school students.
There were 5,981 people with coronavirus in intensive care in France on Thursday, official data showed, with the figure to the relief of the authorities flattening out below 6,000 over the last days.
A total of 102,164 people have died in France from the pandemic but, after a slow start, the vaccine campaign is gaining pace with over 13 million people now given at least a first dose.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said that France would begin offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only a single shot, from Saturday to people aged 55 and over.
It will be the fourth vaccine being offered by France after Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
Interior Minister Darmanin confirmed the full details of France’s strictest quarantine measures yet, which will be fully enforced from Saturday for arrivals from the 5 ‘high risk’ countries plus the French overseas département of French Guiana, which borders Brazil
The following measures are in place for all travellers over the age of 11:
- Anyone travelling from India, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Brazil or French Guiana must get either a PCR test 36 hours before travel OR a PCR test 72 hours before travel followed by a rapid-result antigen test 24 hours before travel
- Travellers then take another antigen test on arrival in France, and confirm to border guards that they will observe a 10-day quarantine, providing an address where they will be quarantining
- Police will then check the address provided during the 10 days to ensure the quarantine is being enforced
- Essential errands may be done only between 10am and 12 noon, anyone not at the address provided outside those hours will be deemed in breach of quarantine and fined
- Fines range from €1,000 to €1,500