By Damon Mitchell • 28 April 2020 • 15:56
FRANCE’S Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, this afternoon, presented his long-awaited exit plan that the government has laid out for how the country will begin to relax its strict lockdown on May 11.
“We have never in our history known this kind of situation,” Philippe said as he presented a plan, which was to be debated and voted on in the French parliament. His announcement was followed by a debate and a vote, with just 75 of the 577 lawmakers allowed into the National Assembly in line with social distancing measures, the rest will vote by proxy.
The government’s lockdown had been key in limiting the pandemic curve avoiding the country’s hospitals becoming unable to cope with the number of patients, the PM said.
“Since April 8, the number of intensive care patients has been decreasing,” Philippe said.
But the PM warned that after May 11 the French public is going to have to learn to live with the virus.
“As long as we don’t have a vaccine, or reach collective immunity, the virus will continue to circulate among us,” the PM said, outlining that this was the “first axis” of the government’s strategy. “We, therefore, need to learn to live with the virus.”
The second axis was “progressive,” the government aim to gradually ease restrictions in order to continue to protect the country’s hospitals.
The third key point of the government’s strategy was “geography,” said Philippe, meaning that mayors and local authorities around France would be allowed to adapt the government’s plan depending on the spread of the virus in their area.
Shops will be allowed to open from May 11 – but not restaurants or cafes, (the government will consider timeline at the end of May) nor theatres, cinemas or museums. Offices should continue to encourage working from home as much as possible or in shifts. For now – gatherings in public or private places will remain limited to 10 people. Travel (except for work or family emergencies) should be limited to a 100km radius of your home. Beaches will remain closed until at least June 1.
Philippe also pointed out that the risk of a second wave of infections could mean a second spell of quarantine.
“Thanks to everyone’s effort, we will have enough masks for everyone starting May 11,” the PM said and acknowledged that “the question of masks had been a source of anger among many,” explaining that France “like all other European countries” had faced the challenge of a potential shortage.
“The government, therefore, decided to set aside national stocks of masks for the country’s health workers,” he said.
The government would “support regional collectivities in buying masks by covering 50 per cent of the price,” said the PM.
Schools would also receive masks, but the PM did not say whether wearing a mask in school would be mandatory.
“At the end of the lockdown we will be able to effectuate 700,000 tests per week,” Philippe said. These tests would be “100 per cent covered by social security.”
France was aiming for a “massive” test capacity in order to quickly identify those having been contaminated by the virus.
All “contact points” with a contaminated person would also be identified and tested, Philippe said. That means everyone who has been in touch with a Covid-19 positive person would need to take a test too and would be isolated if they tested positive.
The French government has already said French schools would begin to reopen starting May 11. Now, Philippe said crèches would also open starting May 11, but with an upper limit of 10 children in every group. The government would make a decision on whether technical colleges would be able to reopen at the end of May.
The PM said religious communities would not be able to organise ceremonies “before June 2.”
Funerals would continue to be permitted in a small gathering of up to 10 people and the public would be able to visit the country’s graveyards after May 11.
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As frontman of a rock band Damon used to court the British press, now he lives the quiet life in Spain and seeks to get to the heart of the community, scoring exclusive interviews with ex-pats about their successes and struggles during their new life in the sun.
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