France to further ease lockdown as COVID-19 situation improves

France will further unwind anti-coronavirus lockdown from June 2, lifting 100-km travel restriction and allowing non-essential businesses, parks and beaches to reopen, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Thursday.

The last three weeks of the first phase of deconfinement had “good results,” Philippe told a press meeting. “During this phase 2, freedom will become the rule again and bans will be the exception.”

The prime minister, however, warned that “the virus is still present at different speeds throughout the territory.” He stressed that high vigilance was recommended in Paris and Ile-de-France region and two overseas departments of Mayotte and Guiana where the virus was circulating faster that other zones, Xinhua reported.

Starting from next week, the order which forced people to stay within 100 kilometers of their homes will be lifted, but the ban on gathering of more than 10 people is maintained. Night clubs and stadiums will remain closed.

Restaurants, cafes and bars in low risk areas will be able to receive customers, providing they respect health protocol and social distancing. In Great Paris region, classified as “orange” zone, they can only open outside spaces to avoid a resurgence of the epidemic.

All the cities will also be allowed to reopen parks and public gardens. In “orange” zones, people should wear a mask when in parks and public gardens. Colleges and high schools will be able to reopen.

Access to beaches, monuments, museums, gymnasiums, swimming pools will be permitted, except in the capital and surrounding areas, which should wait for three more weeks.

From June 22, holiday resorts, cinemas can also open with strict respect of social distancing rules.

From June 15, France will open its borders to European visitors without imposing a two-week quarantine, Philippe added.

France has started to lift a national lockdown on May 11 by resuming gradually economic activities while ramping up tests and increasing vigilance to avoid the epidemic resurgence.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said the virus’ reproduction rate, known as the “R0” rate, was below 1 almost across the whole country. That means each person who caught the virus is infecting less than one person and so the epidemic is regressing.

“What determines this variable is you and your behaviour, social distancing, wearing of masks and other safety measures,” said Veran.

As of Thursday, France had 15,208 people hospitalized with the COVID-19, 472 down from a day before. The number of patients in intensive care fell by 72 to 1,429. Coronavirus-related fatalities increased by 66 to 28,662, according to figures released by the Health Ministry.