Covid-19: France to relax curfew, allow outdoor dining and reopen cultural venues from May 19

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France will start relaxing its nightly curfew and allow cafés, bars and restaurants to offer outdoor service starting May 19, regional newspapers reported on Thursday, as President Emmanuel Macron charts a way out of the country's third Covid-19 lockdown.

Macron announced a four-step plan for lifting Covid-19 restrictions starting next Monday May 3 in an interview with regional papers. The ban on domestic travel will be lifted starting Monday but the 7pm curfew will remain in place.

On May 19, non-essential business will be allowed to reopen and the nightly curfew will be pushed back to 9pm local time. Restaurants and cafés will be able to welcome customers outdoors, with a maximum of six people per table. Museums, theatres, cinemas and sport facilities will also reopen, with a limit of 800 people indoors and 1,000 outdoors. Private gatherings of more than 10 people remain banned and working from home as much as possible is encouraged.

Foreign tourists will once more be able to enter the country starting on June 9 if they have a certificate of vaccination or a PCR test. The nightly curfew will be extended to 11pm.

Beginning on June 30, the nighttime curfew and most other restrictions would be lifted although Covid-19 prevention protocols would remain in place in public spaces. Nightclubs will remain closed.

The French president made clear that this timetable is provisional and could be delayed in areas where intensive care units are close to saturation or the Covid-19 incidence rate exceeds 400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

France’s main Covid-19 indicators all showed some signs of improvement on Wednesday, with the seven-day moving average of daily new infections falling to 27,366 compared with 38,000 when the lockdown began.

But authorities are still reporting some 30,000 virus infections each day and French hospitals are still close to being overwhelmed, with more than 5,800 critically ill patients in French intensive care units on Thursday.

France has recorded 5.57 million Covid-19 cases and 103,947 deaths so far since the start of the pandemic.