Macron Outlines French Re-Opening Plan Despite Hospital Pressure

President Emmanuel Macron said restrictions on businesses and a nationwide curfew will be relaxed from May 19 as he outlines steps to reopen France amid an accelerating vaccination campaign.

With his job on the line in elections in just a year, Macron is under pressure to ease curbs. Yet while that will bring some relief to a pandemic-weary country, it’s also a gamble. Hospitals remain under intense strain and France is still trailing the U.K. and Germany in the number of vaccine doses administered.

Here’s how Macron plans to progressively phase out Covid curbs, according to an interview with Le Parisien published on Thursday:

  • May 3: Domestic curbs on travel lifted, students return to classrooms (previously announced)
  • May 19: Terraces of restaurants, bars and cafes will re-open, along with non-essential businesses and museums -- albeit with restrictions on numbers of people allowed in
  • Curfew will start two hours later, running from 9 p.m.- 6 a.m.
  • June 9, start of curfew will move to 11 p.m. Cafes, restaurants and gyms will be able to fully re-open with tables of six. Foreign tourists and large gatherings will be allowed under certain conditions

From June 30, restrictions will be almost completely lifted, including the curfew, though clubs will remain closed, according to Le Parisien.

While Germany has implemented a tough new lockdown that could last until June, France joins Austria, the U.K. and Italy in planning to ease restrictions because of progress made in protecting their people against the disease.

France reported around 27,000 new infections a day on average in the past week, down from a peak of around 40,000 at the beginning of April. Hospitalizations are finally on the decline.

But Macron’s strategy could prove risky as:

  • 5,879 patients in critical condition are still hospitalized, compared to a capacity of 5,000 before Covid (capacity has increased by postponing surgeries or reallocating resources)
  • On average over the last week, around 1,700 people have been hospitalized because of Covid
  • Around 285 people have died each day on average in the past week
  • Only 22% of the French population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, with a focus on vulnerable and senior people
  • According to the Bloomberg CovidTracker, if France keeps up the current vaccination pace, the entire adult population would be vaccinated in January 2022
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