France eases lockdown restrictions amid COVID-19 pandemic

Friday, May 8, 2020


On Thursday, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced that the government of France is planning to ease coronavirus lockdown measures starting May 11. He also mentioned that the exit from lockdown would be a gradual and progressive process and the country would also aim to stem a resurgence of the viral outbreak.

The lockdown ease arrived after nearly two months of stringent travel restrictions for the entire country. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe also unveiled the highly-anticipated roadmap to be followed in order to come out of the confinement. According to the updated version of the government’s color-coded map, France is being divided into red zones, for high-infection areas, and green zones, the areas with a comparatively lower infection rate. The map is designed to serve as a reference for lockdown easing measures.

Prime Minister Philippe said in his statement that the country will mark the beginning of slowly emerging from lockdown starting Monday. He said that the process would be gradual and stretch over several weeks in order to maintain a steady progression. He mentioned that the government was constantly looking for ways to strike the right balance between the indispensable resumption of economic life as well as the essential need to ensure the safety of the public. He added that the exit from lockdown would be differentiated from one place to others as restrictions to be lifted gradually and also vary between regions.

He further explained that the COVID-19 outbreak has divided the country into two as the virus is circulating more quickly in some regions as compared to others. He shared that the areas with an active circulation of the virus and extreme pressure on hospitals are classified as red areas. He also said that though strict lockdown would be ended in those areas, restrictions in school, parks, and public gardens will continue to stay in place.

The dense region of Paris has been considered as a red zone as the number of cases continues to remain higher than expected even though it is going down as compared to previous months. Both the public and the authorities have been asked to remain extra vigilant in the area. Administrative regions of Calais, Strasbourg and Dijon have also been considered as red zones. The overseas territory of Mayotte is the only exception with the probability of prolonged lockdown as coronavirus cases are constantly increasing in the region.

Primary schools, as well as businesses other than cafes and restaurants in both red and green zones, have been allowed to open from May 11, as a part of the phased exit from lockdown. If infection rates continue to remain low in green zones secondary schools, cafes and restaurants might be opened from early June. The elderly and other vulnerable populations, including people with underlying medical conditions, will also be allowed to go out but have been advised extreme caution.

The government has also urged companies to ensure employees can continue working from home when possible. They have also been advised to introduce shift working in order to avoid transport congestion and ensure physical distancing. As reported by French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne, usage of face masks would be compulsory on public transport for everyone aged 11 and above. Individuals traveling during rush hour in the Paris region will need to carry a document signed by their employer. She also informed that all public transport providers will operate at around 50% capacities as of now and can expect to reach full capacity by early June.

Shops and hair salons have also been allowed to reopen. People are now allowed to go out without special permission. However, any trips of more than 100 kilometers would require government form and are only allowed for funerals, medical and professional reasons.

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