France continues to move towards end of lockdown as schools reopen

Visitors wearing protective face masks at the Chateau de Versailles in Versailles, near Paris, France. EPA-EFE/JULIEN DE ROSA

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France is entering Phase 3 of its progressive end of lockdown and life is returning to almost near normal.

Almost all schools reopen today and classes are obligatory even though there are only two weeks left until the end of the school year.

Since the end of the strict lockdown on 11 May, the return to school has been voluntary and subject to regulations, including a maximum of 15 pupils per class and a minimum distance of 1m between each student. These have now been relaxed: pupils must remain 1m apart each side (but not necessarily in front or behind) and must wear masks, but the whole class should be present.

Some parents have questioned why pupils need to return so near to the start of the two-month summer holidays, but Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said “two weeks of classes is important” after pupils have been distance learning since March, with mixed success.

Some measures that were initially due to come into effect on Monday were brought forward because the Covid-19 figures were better than expected, but cinemas are set to reopen today and public gatherings of up to 5,000 people will be allowed. All Paris metro stations should also reopen.

There was some concern after videos from the annual Fête de la Musique on Sunday evening saw thousands of people gathered on the streets of Paris dancing, having fun and showing no sign of any social distancing.

Yesterday’s figures showed seven people died of Covid-19 in France in the previous 24-hours, the lowest figure since the pandemic began in March. Although the figures are likely to have been skewed by slow weekend reporting, the number of patients in hospital and intensive care with the virus is also low.

However, the French overseas territory Guyane may have to go back into lockdown after a “sudden acceleration” of the epidemic.

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