Seeking to boost morale in a lockdown-weary French population, President Emmanuel Macron announced last Tuesday that his government is encouraged by the results of the anti-COVID-19 lockdown that is currently in place. He added that it is preparing a multi-step plan to emerge from it, which he said would be announced shortly.
Two days later, on Thursday, his Prime Minister, Jean Castex, held a press conference in which he announced that the current lockdown has succeeded in reducing the spread of the virus to the point that it appears that the peak of the third wave of the COVID-19 virus in France is now behind us. He further announced that his government plans to re-open elementary schools for in-class instruction as of tomorrow, Monday, and that the current 10-kilometers-from-home restriction on day-time circulation of citizens will be lifted as of May 3rd. However, the current 7 pm to 6 am curfew is being retained for the time being.
Both executives sounded a note of caution by stating that implementation of the intended relaxations depends on a continuation of the current positive trend. Indeed, the current level of COVID-19 ICU occupancy in hospitals remains persistently high, at nearly 6,000 beds occupied (nationally), the second highest reading of this year.
Nevertheless, Castex also declared his intention to re-open certain cultural and sporting venues, as well as café terraces, by mid-May, to be followed by the opening of indoor eating and drinking establishments thereafter. The latter have been closed since the end of last October. The prime minister also stated that incoming travellers from countries where the virus is out of control as of yesterday are subject to a 10-day strictly-controlled quarantine regulation, backed by stiff 1,500 euro fines for any violation. Such countries currently include: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, India and South Africa.
The French government’s current optimism is certainly counting on a continuation of recent progress in its COVID-19 vaccination program. It has vaccinated about 20% of the French population to date, and the rate is expected to accelerate, boosted by the initiation of Johnson & Johnson vaccinations that began to be administered yesterday, April 24. There are further hopes that the numbers of those vaccinated in France will reach 35%, perhaps more, before the end of May.
It is also possible, indeed likely, that regulations permitting tourism in France will evolve on a regional basis. That means that regions of France that are relatively free of COVID-19 infections will very likely be freed of COVID-19 restrictions before those where the rate of infections remains high.
One other development that was evoked by the European Commissioner Thierry Breton a week ago (last Sunday) is the possibility of the adoption of a vaccine passport before the end of June. This is for persons who wish to enter Europe who have been fully vaccinated against the virus and who test free of COVID-19. Such persons will be able to obtain the validated passports, which will allow them to enter Europe without having to quarantine or undergo exceptional retrictions. It is thought that this procedure will be in place in time for use as of July.
While the progress implied by the news above is encouraging, we advise those of you who are considering touring in France later this year to continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation here. We are hopeful that touring in France will become realistically feasible from July forward, but much depends on the further success of the vaccine rollout and improving pandemic statistics. You can count on us to keep you informed of further developments in this blog on a regular basis.