Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has addressed the nation on the next steps as France emerges from lockdown into Phase 2, from June 2.

The results are good, he said, adding that vigilance is still needed to avoid a second wave of infections. The virus is still present across France, but the situation is a little better than he had expected. “It’s good, but not good enough to say that we can go back to normal immediately.”

The prime minister thanked his fellow citizens for their cooperation. However, coronavirus patients taking up 30 percent of the normal capacity of intensive care units is still “a lot,” he said.

The number of unemployed jumped by 800,000 in April, the premier said, noting that it is necessary that France resumes as normal a life as possible.

Nightclubs, and large public gatherings remain forbidden, with a view to a relaxation on June 22, the start of Phase 3. The opening of schools will be accelerated in all regions from June 2. All Lycées will open, except in Ile de France.

Minister of Health Olivier Veran added that 1.9 percent of people tested were found to be positive for the virus, meaning they had antibodies for the disease. The R index now stands at 0.77, meaning that an infected person is infecting less than one other person.

In the Ile de France, Paris and its environs, the virus is circulating more than in other regions. The east of France, known as the Grand Est, has fallen closer into line with the rest of France.

A testing system is in place that allows test results to be known within 48 hours.

The prime mister said that the telephone App is now available. With the triple slogan ‘Test, Trace, and Isolate’ Stop Covid can be downloaded from the App Store. An alert will be sent automatically if the individual has been in close contact with a person who develops he disease.

Citing the importance of jobs, and the French way of life, cafes, bars, restaurants may all open again from June 2. The social distancing rules for restaurants are less onerous than expected, with a maximum of 10 people per table, with a minimum distance of one metre between tables. The wearing of masks will be necessary for staff, and for clients while taking or leaving their places.

The 100km limit will be removed from June 2, while noting that it has been useful in limiting the spread of the virus, the prime minister said. All parks, gardens, museums, beaches and lakes will be reopened from June 2, apart from in the Ile de France, which will follow on June 22, theatres, sports halls and swimming pools will be allowed to reopen from June 2. Cinemas will follow on June 22.

Public reaction to the new lockdown relaxation has been generally positive in France, particularly since the social distancing rules for restaurants could have been more restrictive than announced.

PHOTO: Edouard Philippe