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French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe on Thursday detailed his governments plan for easing Covid-19 confinement measures on May 11, warning that the exit from lockdown would be gradual and targeted to stem a resurgence of the viral outbreak.
The prime minister confirmed that May 11 would mark the beginning of a “progressive” exit from lockdown, ending almost two months of strict confinement for Frances 67-million-strong population.
“Next Monday will mark the start of a very gradual process stretching over several weeks at least, which will allow the country to emerge slowly but steadily from the lockdown," Philippe said, hours after the government put the final touches to its highly-anticipated roadmap.
'Very gradual' process of Covid-19 lockdown easing starts Monday, says French PM
Philippe said the government was looking to “strike the right balance between the indispensable resumption of economic (…) life and the indispensable need” to ensure the safety of the public. He said the exit from lockdown would be “differentiated”, with restrictions to be lifted gradually and varying between regions.
"The country is cut in two, with the virus circulating more quickly in some regions," he explained.
The French PM unveiled an updated version of the government's colour-coded map dividing the country between red zones, for high-infection areas, and green zones, where infections have been markedly lower. The map is designed to serve as a reference for lockdown easing measures.
“Some areas are still seeing an active circulation of the virus or a lot of pressure on hospitals. Those are classified as red areas,” Philippe said. “We will be ending the lockdown there, but some restrictions will remain in place: middle schools will remain closed, and so will parks and public gardens.”
Extra vigilance in Paris region
The prime minister said both the authorities and the public would have to remain "especially vigilant" in the densely populated Paris region, a red zone, “where the number of cases is going down but remains high – higher than we had hoped for.”
Beyond the Paris area, administrative regions around Calais, Strasbourg and Dijon will also remain classified as "red zones".
Vigilance necessary particularly in Greater Paris area, says French PM Philippe
As part of the phased exit from lockdown, primary schools and most businesses — though not cafes and restaurants — will be allowed to reopen as of May 11, both in red and green zones. In the latter zones, Philippe said secondary schools, cafes and restaurants may open from early June if the infection rate remains low.
The elderly and other vulnerable populations, including people with underlying medical conditions, will not be confined to their homes after May 11, the PM added, though he advised extreme caution.
“We trust people who know they are vulnerable to do what is necessary to stay safe,” he said.
An exception will be made for the overseas territory of Mayotte, where “infections are rising fast”, Philippe said, warning that the lockdown would be prolonged there.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed almost 26,000 people in France since March 1, though the number of new hospitalisations and ICU cases has fallen steadily in recent weeks.
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