Advertisement

Strict coronavirus lockdown in France set to lift, re-opening shops, hair salons

Coronavirus around the world: May 10, 2020
WATCH: Coronavirus around the world: May 10, 2020

Millions of French people are set to cautiously emerge from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns on Monday, once more able to engage in everyday activities that have become unexpectedly precious, such as visiting shops and getting their hair cut.

France, whose official death toll is the world’s fifth highest, had enforced an eight-week lockdown, since March 17, to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, with residents only allowed out for essential shopping, work and a bit of exercise.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson says U.K. COVID-19 lockdown to remain; outlines minor ease of restrictions

Shops and hair salons can now reopen, while people can venture out without a government-mandated form, except for trips of more than 100 km (62 miles), which are only allowed for professional reasons, funerals or caring for the sick.

Story continues below advertisement

President Emmanuel Macron’s government decided to lift the lockdown after the number of patients in intensive care — a key measure of hospitals’ ability to cope with the epidemic — fell to less than half the peak of over 7,000 seen in early April.

Coronavirus: Kids and parents wanting to get back to popular playsites
Coronavirus: Kids and parents wanting to get back to popular playsites

Another encouraging indicator has been a prolonged decline in the number of daily deaths from coronavirus infections, which fell to 70 on Sunday, bringing the total to 26,380.

FILE PHOTO: People enjoy the good weather in Bois de Vincennes park on the eve of the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Paris, France, May 10, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: People enjoy the good weather in Bois de Vincennes park on the eve of the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Paris, France, May 10, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

Ahead of Monday’s end to lockdown, many people were keen to enjoy life’s simple pleasures again, including getting a new hairstyle.

Story continues below advertisement

“No hairdressers? I’d rather go without food,” Danielle Gerard, a regular at a hair salon in the central Marais district in Paris told Reuters TV over the weekend.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Europe’s economy suffers worst drop since records began

But it’s certainly not business as usual.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

The government has urged caution, with some regions including the Paris area remaining “red zones,” and subject to additional restrictions. People across the nations are also still advised to work from home if they are able to do so.

A few sporadic clusters of infections have emerged in recent days, including one in Dordogne where at least nine people were diagnosed with COVID-19 following a funeral in late April, and another one in a central France secondary school where four people were infected.

Coronavirus outbreak: Looming war over a possible COVID-19 vaccine
Coronavirus outbreak: Looming war over a possible COVID-19 vaccine

Kindergarten and primary schools are allowed to open on a voluntary basis on Monday, a day before 1.5 million out of a total 6.7 million primary school pupils will be able to return to classrooms on Tuesday.

Story continues below advertisement
Paris Police Prefect Didier Lallement, Ile-de-France region president Valerie Pecresse, French Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition Elisabeth Borne and Ile-de-France region prefect Michel Cadot stand on social distancing markers on the ground at the Gare de l’Est train station in Paris during a visit on the eve of a gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions, that were imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France May 10, 2020.
Paris Police Prefect Didier Lallement, Ile-de-France region president Valerie Pecresse, French Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition Elisabeth Borne and Ile-de-France region prefect Michel Cadot stand on social distancing markers on the ground at the Gare de l’Est train station in Paris during a visit on the eve of a gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions, that were imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France May 10, 2020. Thomas Samson/Pool via REUTERS

Although France has managed to circumscribe the epidemic to a broad northeastern quarter of the country — including Paris — and its hospitals have been able to cope, the ongoing crisis will nonetheless leave long-lasting marks, as it will across the world.

READ MORE: Italy questions what went wrong as coronavirus measures begin to ease

The French, long accustomed to being told their high taxes paid for the best healthcare in the world, have been dismayed by the rationing of critical drugs, face masks and equipment.

They have watched with envy as neighboring Germany appears to have coped better with the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus outbreak: Contact tracing – weighing privacy vs. public health
Coronavirus outbreak: Contact tracing – weighing privacy vs. public health

After initially enjoying a rebound in popularity, Macron’s handling of the crisis has been criticized, with the government’s flip-flopping messages on when or even whether to wear face masks — which has been an issue in other countries too — fueling mistrust.

Story continues below advertisement

Macron’s popularity rating fell to 34 per cent in May, down 5 points from a month ago, according to a recent Elabe poll for Les Echos newspaper.

Coronavirus outbreak: How the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities in the food supply chain
Coronavirus outbreak: How the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities in the food supply chain