French Prime Minister’s key points in his strategy for lifting its France’s nationwide Covid-19 lockdown
FRENCH Prime Minister Édouard Philippe outlined his plan to start reopening the country last night. The proposal includes introducing new methods of social distancing on public transport, limiting travel within France and a gradual reopening of schools. The French will also be able to start socialising again as long as gatherings are kept to a maximum of 10 people. But the worlds of culture and sport will remain in turmoil at least until September.
“We will have to learn to live with the virus,” Philippe said until a vaccine or effective treatment is available.
It will be compulsory to wear masks on all public transport, in taxis and hired cars such as Uber, and on school buses. The PM promised that there will be “a sufficient supply of masks in the country to cope with its needs by May 11.”
Testing for Covid-19 remains a problem in France, with an insufficient number of tests making tracking and isolating those with the virus impossible. Our aim is “to carry out at least 700,000 tests per week by May 11” with costs fully covered by the public health system, the prime minister said.
“As soon as a person has tested positive, we will begin identifying and testing everyone who has had close contact with them, whether they are symptomatic or not. All these contacts will then be tested and will be asked to isolate themselves given the uncertainties about the virus’s incubation period,” said Philippe.
Hotels will be requisitioned to accommodate people who need to be kept in isolation if this is not possible at their homes, he added.
The government will also differentiate between “green” areas, where lockdown measures will be widely eased, and “red” ones, where certain stricter measures will remain in place. To this end, three criteria will be used to determine which areas remain problematic, namely where “the circulation of the virus remains active,” where “hospital resuscitation capacities are stretched” and where the “local system of testing and detecting contact cases is not sufficiently in place.”
According to Philippe, it will be possible to leave home without a permission slip (completed and downloaded for each outing) as of May 11, except for journeys of more than 100km, which will only be allowed “for exceptional family or professional reasons.”
Public transport between regions will also be reduced to ensure people comply and advanced reservation will be compulsory.
In the Paris metro, capacity will be reduced to about 70 per cent for at least three weeks after May 11. In order to respect social distancing, Philippe says “one seat out of two” will be in use. He says platforms will be marked to encourage social distancing and the flow of passengers will be reduced for rush hour.
Shops will be allowed to reopen on May 11 but shops will have the discretion of making mask-wearing obligatory for all staff and customers. Bars, restaurants and cafés will remain closed, with the government promising to make a decision at the end of May as to whether they can reopen after June 2.
No events with more than 5,000 participants can be held before September, said, Philippe. Major sporting and cultural events, especially festivals and trade shows, will have to be cancelled or postponed. There is no way for professional sports to resume this season, notably football, Philippe said, no doubt to the disappointment of fans worldwide.