Eat outside a restaurant, visit a museum or go to the cinema: the French recovered part of their lost freedom this Wednesday (19), a relief after more than six months of harsh measures to contain the spread of the Covid -19 in the country.
With more than 108,000 deaths, the country is one of the Europeans most affected by the coronavirus, but the health situation has improved after months of restrictions and the acceleration of the vaccination campaign. Today, 31% of French people have already been vaccinated with at least one dose, and 14% are already fully vaccinated.
Although he called on the French to remain vigilant in the face of variants of the coronavirus, government spokesman Gabriel Attal was optimistic about the return to an “increasingly normal life”, with a “gradual recovery and progressive “cautious” economic activity.
Despite the rain and below-average temperature for the month of May, cafes, bars and restaurants have reopened their outdoor spaces, with a limit of six people per table and a capacity reduced to 50%. One of the first to seize the opportunity was President Emmanuel Macron, who had coffee with Prime Minister Jean Castex at an establishment near the Elysee Palace.
On Twitter, the French leader called on the population to “rediscover the things that make up the art of living”. The French spend more time eating or drinking than citizens of any other developed country, according to the OECD, the club of rich countries, and dining out is seen as part of the social fabric.
Without much press coverage, but certainly nicer was breakfast for retired Jean, who enjoyed a latte with a croissant outside a cafeteria.
“I was looking forward to this day. Before closing, I would come every morning, have a coffee or two and read the newspaper, it was my ritual before starting the day, ”said the resident of the historic district of Saint-Germain. He vowed to “not let his guard down,” despite having received both doses of Pfizer-BioNTech.
Not all establishments opened their doors on Wednesday. Some intend to wait for the third phase of easing, scheduled for June 9, as they consider it uneconomic to return earlier. The night curfew will begin two hours later as of this Wednesday, at 9 p.m., instead of at 7 p.m.
“The economic model does not work at 50% of its capacity and closes at 9 pm, my structure does not allow it, it does not work”, lamented the famous French chef Philippe Etchebest, who runs the kitchen of the restaurant Quatrième Mur de the city of Bordeaux.
Cinemas, museums and theaters
After 203 days of closure, a period during which the cultural sector depended mainly on state aid, the French are also returning to museums, cinemas and theaters.
“I really missed it. I wanted to be here from the start,” said Tom, 25, as he waited with 20 people to open the Louvre, the most visited museum in the world. In addition to limiting one person per eight square meters, to ensure a safe visit, the public must make an appointment in advance, and the use of a mask is mandatory.
“We booked a week ago,” says Théa, 18, who visited the museum with her mother, Aurore. “It’s even better than in normal times because there are hardly any tourists,” added the young woman, who managed to observe the “Mona Lisa”, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, practically without lines. Deprived of foreign tourists, especially Americans, Chinese, Japanese and Brazilians, who typically account for 75% of tickets, the museum expects an increase in culture-thirsty domestic visitors.
Movie buffs also came to bedrooms early to end their homesickness. “We came in the first hour because we have a program planned for the day”, explained Valérie, 66, alongside sister Albertine, 65, before buying tickets for “Adieu les Cons” d’Albert. Dupontel, in a room on the banks of the Sena River.
The series of reopenings marks the second stage of the four-phase plan announced at the end of April by Macron. The plan is expected to continue on June 9 with the reopening of internal spaces for cafes and restaurants, with larger capacities and a curfew after 11 p.m., which is expected to end completely on June 30, if the situation permits.