France has been hard hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, the number of cases stood at 165,842, with the death toll passing 23,000 — both figures the fourth highest behind the United States, Italy and Spain.
However, as the number of people in the hospital have fallen daily for two weeks, and the number of sufferers in intensive care has declined for 19 consecutive days, the country is now moving forward with plans to reopen. Here’s what we know so far.
The Overall Plan
Today French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe addressed the country’s National Assembly regarding proposed measures to end the lockdown that began March 17. He expanded on plans announced earlier this month for a progressive easing of restrictions starting May 11.
He is, however, sending a bill to parliament to extend the country’s state of emergency to July 23 to continue to restrict freedom of movement, business and gathering. A vote on further measures will take place tonight.
What’s the Deal for Retail?
Although people should continue working from home beyond May 11 when possible, non-essential French retailers can re-open on that date with the exception of those in shopping centers. They will have the right to insist that shoppers wear masks on the premises.
Restaurants and cafes will remain closed until at least early June.
Services on the Paris metro will be increased, with 70% of the Paris network expected be running on May 11. The wearing of masks will be mandated on all transport, metros and buses. Restrictions regarding long-distance train travel will remain in place.
When Will Production Restart?
The May 11 date also appears to apply to production facilities. Companies will be asked to stagger work hours by introducing shifts, and masks will be required where social distancing is not possible. Companies should consider remote working for at least a week after May 11.
The Industry View
Business owners will decide on their reopening schedules on an individual basis within the given parameters. For instance, Liliane Joshua owner of independent luxury retailer Montaigne Market may hold off until a later date. She said that as cafés and restaurants must remain closed, she fears that footfall at her central Paris Avenue Matignon location could be minimal. Reopening could also mean an end to rent deferrals and elements of government aid. “I’m very scared that if we open again on May 11, we will have few customers and less aid,” she said.