Macron to outline plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions in Friday address

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The coronavirus situation is improving in France and President Emmanuel Macron will outline on Friday how restrictions will be progressively relaxed, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday.

The government also plans to replace from June 2 the current state of health emergency - which gives officials greater power to impose tough measures to contain the spread of the virus - with a "transition regime" that will run until Oct. 31.

This is to retain leeway to react swiftly if health conditions were to deteriorate as France exits its lockdown, he told reporters following a cabinet meeting.

France, the euro zone's second biggest economy, started its third national lockdown at the end of March after suffering a spike in COVID-19 deaths and case numbers.

President Emmanuel Macron is hoping the lockdown, along with an accelerated vaccination campaign, will improve France's COVID-19 figures which would then allow certain businesses and leisure activities - such as outdoor dining - to reopen in mid-May.

"The epidemic situation continues to improve at a regular pace. Virus circulation remains high but is on a real downward trend even though its impact on hospitalisation is limited, notably on the number of people in intensive care units," Castex said.

He said weekly new cases numbers were declining and the ‘R’ rate that measures the spread of the virus was now at 0.89, meaning that, on average, every 100 people infected will infect 89 other people, also indicating a downward trend.

France's main COVID-19 indicators all showed some signs of improvement on Tuesday, with the seven-day moving average of daily new infections falling to 27,856, standing below 28,000 for the first time in more than a month.

French schools reopened on Monday after a three-week closure. Macron has said that while open-air bar and restaurant terraces may reopen in mid-May, indoor venues will not re-open before June, and only in regions where the COVID-19 figures have dropped sufficiently to allow this.

(REUTERS)