French PM presents lockdown exit plans


A woman walks towards a tent to treat suspected COVID-19 cases in the courtyard of Henri Mondor Hospital in Creteil, France, March 10, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)

PARIS, April 28 (Xinhua) -- French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday presented measures to be implemented from May 11 to ease the lockdown that has brought economic activities in the country to a standstill in the past six weeks in order to curb the spread of coronavirus epidemic.

"The prolonged large-scale stop of our economy, the lasting disturbance in the education of a great number of children and teenagers, the interruption of public and private investments, the closure of borders, the extreme restriction of movements...will give the country not only the painful inconvenience of confinement, but, in reality and for the worse, the risk of collapse," said Philippe when presenting the so-called "deconfinement" plan to the national assembly.

"It is time to tell the French how our life can resume," he said, stressing that the government's lockdown exit plan, outlined in six key areas -- health, schools, businesses, work, transport and gatherings, must be proceeded cautiously, progressively and by respecting and adapting to different situation in various regions.

The head of government tabled three key words, "protect, test and isolate," for resuming normal daily life without relaunching the spread of virus. Enough masks for all French and at least 700,000 virological tests per week will be available from May 11, he promised.

Any person tested positive for COVID-19 will have to respect a 14-day isolation, either at home or in a place indicated by the authorities, a requisitioned hotel for example. His contact cases will also be identified, tested and asked to stay confined in order to avoid eventually infecting others, he said.

Kindergartens and primary schools will reopen on May 11 on a voluntary basis. They can receive no more than 10 kids per group, with priority given to children of health workers. Secondary schools will gradually reopen from May 18, mask-wearing will be compulsory and no more than 15 students could be present in the classroom at any one time.

When lockdown eased, companies should maintain working from home when possible, or provide workers with masks and ensure distancing at work place, said Philippe.

From May 11, all businesses, except bars, cafes and restaurants are allowed to reopen. Wearing masks will be compulsory in all public transport. People can move freely outside without paperwork justifying their activities. Gatherings of more than 10 people will remain banned.

Warning of the real risk of a second wave of coronavirus crisis, the prime minister stressed that the lockdown will not be lifted on May 11 if indicators are not as good as expected by that day.

"The lockdown being lifted depends on new cases dropping below 3,000 a day," he said. "If the indicators are bad, the lockdown will not be lifted on May 11."

France's coronavirus deaths exceeded 23,000 by Monday but the number of new hospital admissions and deaths have fallen steadily in the past two weeks while new single-day infections stood slightly above 2,000.

The government's lockdown exit plan will be debated by lawmakers and a vote is scheduled later Tuesday evening.