World, Europe

With May 11 in sight, France unveils lockdown exit plan

Detailed methodology put in place to ease restrictions for gradual, phased exit

Cindi Cook   | 30.04.2020
With May 11 in sight, France unveils lockdown exit plan


French lawmakers this week released a strategic plan for lifting of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown as of May 11.

A 10-point plan is in place with two phases of three weeks each, starting on May 11. The second phase will kick off on June 2.

Deconfinement will depend on the presence of the virus, with a "green" or "red" rating given to each department as of May 7, indicating its ability to open up and the rate at which it will do so.

Along with Italy and Spain, France has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe. Both the first case and the first death on the continent occurred in France, the former in Bordeaux on Jan. 24, and the latter on Feb. 14. Cases appeared in various hotspots -- the Oise in the north and the Grand-Est in the east. Two more deaths occurred on Feb. 24; another six on March 5.

French lawmakers took things more and more seriously but it was not until March 12 that President Emmanuel Macron shuttered schools on March 16, and a nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 17 to last until March 31; but with fatalities and infection mounting daily, it was extended until May 11.

Deaths in France since the start of the outbreak now stand at 24,087 out of a total of 128,442 infections.

Key to the plan for lifting the lockdown is a change in its fundamental elements: An attestation needed if out in public will disappear, however a travel limit of 100 kilometers (62 miles) will still be in place.

The wearing of face masks and social distancing will be mandatory on the metro, however public transport will only operate at 70% of its capacity, and be reserved for workers during business hours, a part of the plan that may be hard to enforce.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said face masks will be made available to the public as of May 11, with five million being slated for the most vulnerable in the population.

As for the workplace, Macron asked businesses to have employees work at home as much as possible, with barrier measures and masks made available to those who must come in. All schools will reopen on a rolling basis. All teachers and students at all levels will be required to wear masks.

Lawmakers say they will have the ability to test 700,000 patients when confinement is lifted. Once someone has tested positive, their history will be traced for contact with others. In the aftermath of the outbreak in China, research found that 50% of contaminations were linked to patients who were asymptomatic.

France's lifeblood, its many cafes, restaurants, and bars, will not open until end of May earliest.

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