Government: France ‘is on track’ to reopen cafés and cultural establishments

France is on track to reopen café terraces and lift other Covid-19 restrictions on May 19th, said the government spokesman on Wednesday, but he warned about the rising threat of new variants.

Government: France 'is on track' to reopen cafés and cultural establishments
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

Speaking after the Defence Council meeting on Wednesday, where French President Emmanuel Macron and selected ministers gather each week to review the health measures in place against Covid-19, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the latest epidemic indicators were positive.

“If we maintain our efforts, May 19th will be the day to reopen café, bar and restaurant terraces and places of culture,” Attal said.

While the overall health situation remained serious and hospitals were still under pressure, average case numbers had dropped by 20 percent over the past week and “regionally, the incidence rate is declining everywhere,” Attal said.

MAP: Where in France are Covid rates falling?

The government’s plan to gradually reopen France allows for postponing the dates in areas with incidence rates – total new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, taken as a seven-day average – of over 400.

IN DETAIL: France’s new calendar for reopening after Covid restrictions

All of mainland France’s départements had on Wednesday dropped below that threshold, although the numbers included a holiday – Saturday, May 1st – when many test centres were closed.

Attal also warned that “the threat of variants remains real”, risking a flare-up in cases the country lowered its guard.

“We cannot take lightly the risk of new variants,” Attal said, adding that the government intends to put additional countries on the list of areas subject extra tight travel restrictions. The list would become public after the government notified the countries concerned, which would happen “in the coming hours”.

He also said 16.5 people had received at least one dose of the vaccination.

“We will meet our goals: 30 million people by mid-June and all adults who want to by the end of the summer,” Attal said.

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France to build new floating terminal to ensure gas supplies this winter

The French government aims to have its natural gas storage reserves at full capacity by autumn, with European countries bracing for supply cuts from major supplier Russia as the Ukraine war continues, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Thursday

France to build new floating terminal to ensure gas supplies this winter

“We are ensuring the complete filling of our storage capacities, aiming to be close to 100 percent by early autumn,” and France will also build a new floating methane terminal to receive more energy supplies by ship, Borne said.

France is much less dependant on Russian gas than its neighbours, and announced earlier this week that it has not received any Russian gas by pipeline since June 15th.

Meanwhile Germany moved closer to rationing natural gas on Thursday as it raised the alert level under an emergency plan after Russia slashed supplies to the country.

“Gas is now a scarce commodity in Germany,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck told reporters at a press conference.

French PM Borne on Thursday also confirmed that the bouclier tarifaire (price shield) will remain in pace until the end of 2022 – this freezes the price of household gas and limits rises in electricity bills for homes to four percent.