Tuesday, May 5 will mark seven weeks since France went under nationwide confinement due to the coronavirus pandemic. The global health emergency that took Europe by storm forced President Emmanuel Macron to close all public schools and all non-essential businesses as of March 17, and to force the population to stay at home.
It was, said health experts, the only sure way to limit the spread of the highly contagious new disease.
But with the lockdown lifting on May 11, the weeks ahead mean massive planning, as thousands are itching to get back to work and school. On Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will introduce his official de-confinement plan to the Senate.
After May 11, the population will be free to travel but within a 100-kilometer (62-mile) radius of their residence; further journeys require a form revealing the nature of one's journey.
To form a complete picture of what will and will not be permitted, and where, the government has released tables color-coded by regional department. Shops and businesses may reopen, save for those that involve large gatherings, such as movie theaters, beaches, and lakefronts. Libraries, media centers, cemeteries, and forests may open as well. Cafes, bars, and restaurants may not.
On Friday, France's Health Ministry also released a color-coded map showing which departments will be allowed the most de-confinement. Those most restricted, to the northeast, are in red; those less so in orange; and those least, in the west, in green.
The map will serve as a guide and is updated daily, presented each evening by Jerome Salomon, the director general of health, at a press briefing. It will be finalized on May 7. Upon de-confinement, the conduct in each department will be left to local authorities to regulate.
-Paris and abroad
Travel into and out of France is another matter of huge concern post-lockdown. Journeys will be freely permitted for those from the EU, Schengen Zone, and the United Kingdom; rules for all other international travelers will be announced over the coming days. The determining factor: That confirmed cases of infection fall below 3,000 per day.
Within Ile-de-France, the country's largest department and home to Paris, regaining vigorous public transport is crucial to the economy. The region’s President Valerie Pecresse has many facets to consider, most especially the region's transit authority, which she also heads. Pecresse will call on
law enforcement to regulate social distancing on the vast network or busses and metro and commuter trains. Passengers will be very limited on each, with markings taped to the floor to gauge entry onto vehicles.
Surgical masks will be mandatory on all public transport and distributed at stations for the three weeks following confinement. A €135 ($147) fine will remain in place for violators.
Masks will not be required when in public.
Hand sanitizer will be for sale at 300 vending machines planned for various stations.
In line with combating COVID-19 to the fullest extent, France will maintain its state of health emergency until July 24.