‘Resume French way of life’: Macron lays out four-stage plan for lifting France’s lockdown

French President Emmanuel Macron detailed on Thursday how France will lift its "partial lockdown" in a series of steps including ending the nighttime curfew and reopening cafés, bars and gyms.

'Resume French way of life': Macron lays out four-stage plan for lifting France's lockdown
Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

Detailing the long-awaited reopening plan, the president chose an interview with a group of French regional newspapers, rather than his usual TV broadcasts.

The president has opted for a four-stage process, with three weeks between each stage in order to assess the impact on Covid numbers.

As with previous reopening plans, the latter stages are dependent on the health situation remaining under control and could be pushed back if numbers start to climb again.

There is also an option for regional measures if some places still have high Covid rates.

Macron in his interview with papers including Le Parisien said: “I am confident that the whole of France will be able to move to the May 19th stage.

“The measures will be national, but we will be able to activate ’emergency brakes’ in areas where the virus is circulating at too high a rate.”

Reopening could be delayed in any town or département which has a 7-day incidence rate of more than 400 new cases per 100,000 people, a sudden jump in rates and intense pressure on local health services.

MAP: Where in France has the lowest Covid rates 

IN DETAIL: The calendar for reopening France after lockdown

The reopening plan will now be the subject of consultation with businesses and other stakeholders, before Prime Minister Jean Castex presents a more detailed version during the week of May 10th.

Here’s the outline of the plan:

Monday, May 3rd

Travel rules will be lifted with the end of the 10km rule and no more need for attestations for anyone out between 6am and 7pm.

Secondary schools go back to in-person classes after four works of holidays and distance learning while high schools (lycées) return to a minimum of 50 percent of in-person classes. The percentage of in-person versus online teaching will be set by each school.

All other rules remain the same.

The following will happen only if the health situation allows, and could be done on a regional basis:

Wednesday, May 19th

  • Curfew will be pushed back to 9pm from the current 7pm start.
  • Reopening of the “non-essential” shops which are currently closed
  • Reopening of cinemas, theatres and museums, with number restrictions
  • Reopening of open-air sports facilities
  • Cafés, bars and restaurants will be able to reopen their outdoor terrace spaces only, with a maximum of 6 people per table
  • Gatherings of up to 10 people allowed again in public places
  • Reopening of open-air or covered sports facilities to spectators, with number restrictions

Wednesday, June 9th

  • Implementation of a pass sanitaire – a ‘health passport’ showing either a vaccine certificate or recent Covid test that will be compulsory to access certain areas or events
  • Curfew pushed back to 11pm
  • Cafés, bars and restaurants allowed to reopen indoor spaces, with a maximum of 6 people per table
  • Possible public events including concerts and sports matches with a maximum of 5,000 people – only with a pass sanitaire
  • Opening borders to non-EU tourists and visitors – only with a pass sanitaire, more details HERE
  • Relaxation of the rules on remote working to allow people back to offices and workplaces
  • Reopening of public meeting rooms with a maximum of 5,000 people – only with a pass sanitaire
  • Reopening of indoor sports centres and gyms

Full details of exactly how the ‘health passports’ will work have not yet been revealed, but here’s what was involved in a pilot scheme of the pass.

For people in France wanting to access large gatherings, concerts etc this would be via the TousAntiCovid tracker app, which has recently been updated to allow test results and vaccine certificates to be scanned. The app then creates a QR code which can be read by staff at events or concert venues.

Exactly how this will work for international travellers is for the present less clear, especially since the EU are also in the process of creating a digital pass which France is keen to use.

Wednesday, June 30th

  • End of the curfew
  • Possibility of events of more than 1,000 people, indoors or outdoors. Entrants will need a valid pass sanitaire

During the interview, Macron said it was time to start “resuming our French-style way of life”, citing the need for “conviviality”, culture and sport.

But people needed to remain “careful and responsible”, he said.

Macron, who is expected to seek re-election next year, drew strong criticism for rejecting calls by medical experts to order a third national lockdown in late January to bring down a stubbornly high coronavirus caseload.

Two months later he finally relented and introduced a partial lockdown from April 3rd.

In the interview with regional media he defended his handling of the health crisis, saying: “We were enlightened by science and took the decision to prioritise the human aspect above all.”

He added: “The daily life of the country cannot be reduced to the evolution of infection curves. I am obliged to look at the consequence of the closure of a school, when a child will not have a meal a day; or the consequence when a business is asked to close for several weeks. I know their distress today. We must take all of this into account.”

The president said that the big difference between this and previous reopenings was the vaccine programme, although he resisted calls to scrap the priority groups system and allow everyone to access a vaccine.

He said: “We will continue to prioritise by age because it is the most effective. Vaccinating the most vulnerable reduces the pressure on hospital services.

“But we have doses in stock. We are therefore going to open up vaccination to all those over 18 years of age who are seriously overweight (BMI greater than 30) as of May 1st. I invite the 2.3 million French people concerned to go to the vaccination centers starting this weekend.”

READ ALSO When will I be eligible for a Covid vaccine?

You can read the full text of the president’s interview (in French) HERE.

Member comments

  1. Very good news. Curious how an American who is fully vaccinated can obtain the “pass sanitaire” and avoid having the
    constant PCR tests? Since USA is not implementing a digitized scheme to prove vaccination, will the cards they gave us at the vaccination site suffice as proof? Very much looking forward to learning those details.

    1. That’s the million dollar question! My parents (from non-EU European country) have been fully vaccinated but only have a non-standardised paper vaccination record.

    1. Well, that’s the problem with these so called “vacciations”. If you’ve had your two “vaccinations” you should be allowed to walk around without masks, because you would be protected from receiving covid from an infected person. And clearly, as you’re “vaccinated” then you can’t pass it on to someone else.
      Sadly, it doesn’t work like this though, does it.

      1. It takes about a month after the second vaccine dose for the immunity to kick in. Besides, the efficacies of most vaccines are in the range of 93-95%, so some vaccinated people can still get infected.

        1. Not true, two weeks after the first vaccination protection is already quite high. Yes people will still get infected, that is oke, they do not end up in hospital or die. And if you are not vaccinated you know by now how to prevent infection!

          1. The whole idea of a vaccination is that it should prevent people from getting infected, irrespective of whether the infection gets them to the hospital or not. If people are getting infected even two weeks after the first vaccination, it means that immunity has not kicked in. Period. There is a reason why a second dose is required. The first dose is inadequate and produces only a very weak immune response that is certainly not enough to prevent infection.

      2. I beleive the idea behind wearing masks is, of course, to protect one, but also as importantly to prevent wearers from spreading the virus on their breath – AND a vaccinated person who may be infected but ok because of the vacination can still spread the virus to other people who have not been vaccinated. I suppose it depends on how much we care for our fellow’s safety.

      3. I agree, give people their own responsibility back. ‘oh that would be unfair to the ones not yet vaccinated’, well life is unfair, a good lesson for the younger generaton who appear very entitled.

      1. Because they do nothing, if they did infections should be near zero now! Exept in trains, airplanes, hosptitals, I can see the point. It just gives a false sense of security. Prevention should be: healthy diet, being outside a lot, exercise, distance, fresh air, windows open.
        Yesterday I was visiting the gp, small room 12m2, 6 people in that room, 3 in the small hallway, everyone ‘safe’ because they were sitting there with their masks. No windows open, no door open, no airco. I came in and smelled the stale air, so I started opening windows. People looked at me as if I was mentally unstable or so.
        Maybe I am because I do not believe masks work in 80% of the circumstances, the 20% where I think it makes sense does not include outside, schools, shops (fresh air and distance), etc.

        1. So by your theory that the wearing of masks do nothing, why is it people in Asian countries have worn them before this virus broke out. When I lived in Japan most wore them in trains and even when walking about the major cities. I certainly don’t think it was to make a fashion statement.

          1. Wearing a mask is imperative.
            I wouldn’t dream about leaving my home without a good mask and my 75% alcohol hand gel.

  2. So, the re-opening is conditional on control of the virus and a vaccination programme that still has a long way to go. Is it reasonable to ask tourists to book their holidays here when they could arrive to find everywhere closed ? I think France should make it clear to them that this timetable is a best case scenario and that nothing is guaranteed.

    1. France has made it very clear about visiting.
      The rules are also clearly stated right here in The Local. There’s nothing confusing about this situation.
      But whatever you do, you STILL have to wear a mask and wash your hands. Don’t count on the “vaccination” because as mentioned in previous posts and comments, you can still catch covid whether you’ve been “vaccinated” or not.

      1. What is confusing is why with 6000 Covid patients in intensive care, 30000 in hospital and 300-400 dying a day, it’s seen as the right time to lift lockdown restrictions. Since antibodies can take up to a month to develop following vaccination, presumably the figures can now only get worse whilst we wait for the rest of the vaccination programme to happen.

  3. No I did not say that! in 20% it makes sense! and maybe that is in over populated areas. Not in parks, alone in cars and other stupidness.

  4. The lockdown on April 4 was put in place to reduce pressure on the hospitals, reduce the rate of infection and reduce the number of deaths. It’s now being lifted with more people in hospital with Covid than on April 4 , 6000 in intensive care and hundreds of deaths a day. Whatever else this decision is, it isn’t logical.

  5. The vaccine works. Get vaccinated (if you can – it’s not as easy as the government pretends). Look forward to a better future.

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Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

As France launches its autumn vaccine campaign, almost half of those eligible for the second booster jab in France have already received it. This has left some wondering whether they could qualify for a third booster, using the new dual-strain vaccines.

Reader Question: Can I get a third Covid booster shot in France?

Question: I’m in my 70s and I had my second booster back in the summer but now I see that the new dual-strain vaccines are available – should I be getting an extra booster with the new type of vaccine?

French health authorities launched the autumn booster campaign on October 3rd includes newly authorised dual-strain vaccines – such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.1, the Moderna vaccine adapted to BA.1, and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine adapted to BA.4/5 – which are designed to combat the Omicron variant.

It will be followed by the seasonal flu vaccination campaign in mid October.

READ MORE: When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

In France, about 6.3 million people have received a second booster dose, “or 41 percent of the eligible population,” said the Directorate General of Health (DGS) to Ouest France.

Currently only those in high risk groups are eligible for a second booster shot, including pregnant women, the elderly those with medical conditions or carers – find the full list here.

As almost half of the eligible population have already received a fourth vaccine, many are wondering whether they will be eligible for a fifth (or third booster) in order to access the new dual-strain vaccine.  

According to Virginie, a representative from HAS – France’s health authority – the organisation “no longer thinks in terms of doses for high-risk people and immunocompromised patients.”

Specifically, the HAS recommends that a new injection be given – and if possible one of the dual-strain vaccines – “regardless of the number of injections received up to now”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster in France?

However, French health authorities specified that the additional booster should “respect the minimum recommended time between two doses.”

“This depends based on your profile – for people aged 80 and over, residents of nursing homes or long-term care units (USLD) and those who are immunocompromised, the wait-time is three months between jabs. For the others, the delay is set at six months.”

For those who have already been infected by Covid-19, the HAS recommends that if you are eligible for a second (or third booster) that the additional dose “is still recommended, with a minimum delay of three months after infection.”