The French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe has spoken. Addressing the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon, whilst being beamed live across France, he revealed his government’s much-awaited plan to ease the strict nationwide coronavirus lockdown from May 11th – and the nation rejoiced!

Speaking for over an hour, the Prime Minister seemed cautiously optimistic about the future as he set out France’s plans for the coming weeks. France will go through a series of stages as we are eased out of the confinement period. The number of coronavirus cases in France is on the decline, as it seems to be globally, and the government says it is imperative to open the economy back up, whilst keeping the health of the nation as priority number one. They wish to avoid a second wave of the virus so each stage will be closely monitored and the PM urged that French citizens need to be disciplined, we need to adhere to the social distancing rules, continue to wash hands, wear masks as much as possible in public and so on.

Testing will be ramped up massively in the coming 2 weeks, with the capacity to test 700,000 people a week across France by May 11th, masks will be strongly recommended (and legally required for public transport and for colleges) and they will be widely available for the nation from May.

Each region is currently being assessed, Departments will be labelled either green or red depending on the degree that the virus is active, the capacity of hospitals to receive patients and the readiness of the local system to administer virus tests. Red departments will have stricter de-confinement measures than green departments and the easing of restrictions will not be uniform across the country, it will depend on the situation in each department.

The initial stage of deconfinement is the monitoring stage which will run from May 11th until June 2nd, if all goes well they hope to be able to relax measures further in June.

So, what are the main points we hear you ask… Here we go:

TRAVEL

International travel is understandably still restricted, the initial focus is on opening France, but no doubt the next stage will be to open up borders so that people can begin to travel and some sort of normality can be reached. Every country wants to open up international trade and travel as soon as possible but the situation will be constantly monitored.

Until now, French residents have only been able to leave the house for essential travel to their local supermarket, pharmacy or health facility, provided they justified the trip with an attestation document and ID. From May 11th, the form will no longer be needed and car trips of up to 100 kms will be allowed. Anything above that threshold will still require justification.

Public transport will run on a reduced capacity and face masks will be mandatory when using them.

SCHOOLS

Not all schools will reopen at the same time. Creches/Kindergartens and primary schools will reopen their doors on May 11th but secondary education will only resume for some on May 18th with high schools unlikely to restart until the beginning of June. Initially, attendance will be voluntary as home-schooling can still continue.

Schools will have to adapt to respect some rules including no more than 15 pupils per class and strict social distancing rules. Face masks will be mandatory for pupils in secondary education and teachers will all be provided with masks.

SHOPS AND BUSINESSES

Most shops and businesses, as well as some smaller museums and libraries are allowed to reopen from May 11th but cafés, bars, restaurants, large museums and cinemas are to remain closed for longer. They hope to be able to open up restaurants and bars etc in early June but this will be monitored and a decision will be made at the end of May

Markets and shopping centres can resume work but local authorities have the power to rule out reopening if they deem it necessary in their area. Working from home is still encouraged where possible for the time being

TESTING AND FACE MASKS

The Prime Minister, said that the country is currently receiving 100 million surgical masks a week and that an additional 20 million washable masks will be delivered before May 11, the country will have enough face masks when restrictions start to be lifted.

The general public will be able to buy them in pharmacies and supermarkets as well as on a newly-created online platform managed by the postal service.

He also announced that testing capacity will be ramped up to 700,000 a week from May 11.

OTHER POINTS:

Beaches will remain inaccessible until the beginning of June, religious services are unlikely to resume until early June either.

Private and public gatherings will be restricted to 10 people and gatherings of more than 5,000 people — including festivals and sporting events — will not resume until September.

Parks will only be opened in towns where there is a low circulation of the virus.

So, that is where we are currently, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel, but we need to be patient for a little while longer….  In the meantime, we need to remain positive and disciplined, it will take some time for us to get back to normality, but the sunshine, wine and good times are coming!

Home Hunts are receiving high levels of enquiries at present from international clients, we have a large number of buyers waiting for the chance to get over to France to find their dream home, we are looking forward to offering virtual visits in May and hoping to be able to welcome some of our international clients very soon. As always, we are here to help with any questions you may have about any properties, about the French property market or about life in France generally. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time, details below.

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Take care and stay safe!

Team HH