As France’s vaccination program against COVID-19 makes further progress, the French government on Friday provided further details of its multi-step plan to gradually relax restrictions relating to the virus, provided that the recent decline in the national rate of infection continues.
Altogether, French statistics for the pandemic continue to improve. The current seven day moving average of new national infections has dropped to below 27 thousand from 38 thousand in early April and ICU occupancy has pulled back slightly from 6000 to 5,800.
As of today, the ten kilometer-from-home restraint on citizens movements is dropped, and secondary schools have reopened with some restrictions. Working from home where possible continues to be maintained.
On May 19, the national curfew is expected to be modified from the current 7 pm to 6 am to become 9 pm to 6 am. On that day all types of businesses will be allowed to re-open, and bars and eating establishments will be able to serve outdoors with a limit of six persons per table.
Private gatherings of more than ten persons will not be permitted, but indoor and outdoor sporting venues and museums with up to 800 spectators indoors or 1000 spectators outdoors will be allowed to function. The same will apply to cinemas and theaters. Working from home will continue to be encouraged, where possible.
Starting on June 9, the government plans to push back the curfew to start at 11 pm instead of 9 pm, and all drinking and dining establishments (cafés, bistros, brasseries, restaurants and bars) will be allowed to re-open with the 6 person per table restriction. Sports and cultural venues will be allowed to open with a limit of 5000 persons. On this date restrictions on foreign visitors entering France will be lifted for those who present a health passport that proves that the holder has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and has been recently tested and found to be free of it.
Resumption of work at places of work, including offices, will resume with some restrictions, and international fairs, exhibitions and salons will be allowed to open within the limit of 5000 spectators. Gyms, sports halls, open-air contact sports and indoor non-contact sports will also be authorized.
The last step of the plan is currently projected for June 30th, when the curfew is expected to be eliminated altogether. At that time events with up to 1000 participants both indoors and outdoors will be allowed, with social distancing restraints to still be observed.
However, the government is not expected to authorize the opening of night clubs on a date that can be defined at this time, and it remains to be seen when shows such as those provided at cabarets such as the Folies Bergère and Moulin Rouge will be allowed to operate.
Nearly 16 of 67 million French citizens and residents have now been vaccinated at least once against COVID-19, and a steady increasing supply of vaccines should allow the government’s vaccination program to be further expanded to include younger sectors of the population. At this point most of the elder population has been vaccinated, and approximately 250,000 slots per day for vaccinations are currently available. We expect the age at which those in France can be vaccinated will soon be expanded to below the age of 55.
The government has warned, however, that it will not implement its multi-step relaxation plan in any regions of France where the rate of new COVID-19 infections rises to 400 or more new infections per 100,000 inhabitants. The national average is currently 256. A very careful eye is being kept on the Brazilian and South African variants, which only a week ago were about 4% of new infections nationally, and are now a bit over 5%. The UK variant now comprises almost 82% of new cases nationally.
Isolated cases of new strains of mutations from India, both double and triple mutations, have been detected in France, and experts are tracking with great concern the possibility of the further propagation of them. It is not certain whether current vaccines are effective against them, or not. A great deal of hope is being placed in the growing numbers of persons vaccinated in France, which some believe can result in herd immunity.