French President Emmanuel Macron has outlined a four-stage plan to open the country almost completely by the end of June.
For Americans, the most important date on his calendar is June 9, when French borders will be opened to foreign travelers.
France has been in a tight national lockdown since April 3 when a surge in coronavirus cases began to overwhelm the nation’s hospitals. Macron’s plan slowly begins to end almost all aspects of the lockdown starting May 3 with the reopening of schools to in-person instruction and an end to restrictions on travel.
Other key dates in the plan include:
- May 19, when the 7 p.m. nightly curfew will be pushed back to 9 p.m., and cafes and restaurants will be able to reopen for outdoor service. Theaters, museums, and non-essential shops will also be able to open with restrictions on numbers of occupants.
- June 9, when foreign tourists may again enter the country, but they will need a health pass. So will French residents attending stadiums and other large events. The curfew will also move back to 11 p.m.
- June 30, when the curfew will be lifted completely, and all businesses except nightclubs can open.
The timetable could change by region depending upon COVID-19 numbers. “We will be able to pull an emergency brake in territories where the virus is too present,” Macron told a gathering of French newspaper reporters.
Macron did not reveal any details on the health pass that foreign travelers will need to enter the country. It would most likely be available to those showing proof of being fully vaccinated and/or who have a negative COVID test.
Macron said the pass could be digital or paper with the idea to prevent further spread of the virus. It will not be used for patrons at everyday venues, he said.
“The health pass should not be mandatory for access to everyday things such as restaurants, theaters, and cinemas, or to go see friends,” Macron said. “But for places with big crowds, such as stadiums, festivals, trade fairs, or exhibitions, it would be absurd not to use it.”
France has recorded more than 5.6 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with the death toll over 104,000. The number of daily cases has fallen from about 38,000 at the start of the latest lockdown to about 28,000 in recent days.
The falling numbers helped Macron come to the decision to begin lifting the restrictions. “It is time to start resuming our French-style way of life,” he said, although people must remain careful and responsible. “People need conviviality, culture, and sport.”
About 22 percent of French citizens have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. That number should be considerably higher by the time foreign tourists are able to enter the country in June, he said.
Macron defended his actions in imposing a third lockdown early in April. “We were enlightened by science, and took the decision to prioritize the human aspect above all,” he said.