France will have a first taste of freedom from lockdown on Wednesday, May 19, with the opening of outside seating areas for bars, cafes and restaurants, plus cinemas, theatres and museums, although with limits on numbers. The curfew has been put back to 21:00 from 19:00.

However, due to the slow rollout of vaccines the health situation continues to cause concern. On Tuesday, May 18, 17,210 new coronavirus cases were reported in France as well as 187 deaths. The number of patients in intensive care was 4,015, down from 4,186 on Monday. The worry is that the liberalisation of lockdown rules will result in an upsurge in cases.

By May 12, almost 19 million – 28.3 percent – French residents had received a first dose of vaccine, and 13.5 percent had received both doses. The government’s target is to inoculate everyone who is willing to be jabbed by the end of August. The EU figure for first doses stands at 33.2 percent of the population.

In the UK, which opened pubs and restaurants for indoor service from May 17, more than 70 percent of the over-18 population has been vaccinated.

FILE PHOTO: A closed restaurant in Paris Reuters