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French return to cafes, museums after half-year Covid closure

PARIS: The French on Wednesday joyfully made their way back to cafes and prepared long-awaited visits to cinemas and museums as the country loosened restrictions in a return to semi-normality after over six months of Covid-19 curbs.

Cafes and restaurants with terraces or rooftop gardens can now offer outdoor dining, under the second phase of a lockdown-lifting plan that should culminate in a full reopening of the economy on June 30.

Museums, cinemas and theatres are also reopening after being closed for more than six months, during which they relied chiefly on state aid to remain afloat.

Across Paris, cafes and restaurants had in the last days prepared for the return by setting out outdoor dining areas and the first customers were already sipping their morning expressos.

The establishments have been closed since October 30, 2020, when France entered its second lockdown to beat the coronavirus.

“I already had three customers come drink their coffees. It feels good,” said Pascal who manages the Saint Jean brasserie in the Montmartre district.

“What a change from getting take-away coffee at the bakery!” enthused one of the customers, Cyril.

In the western city of Rennes, Patricia Marchand, the manager of the Cafe des Feuilles, said she had reservations even for aperitifs. “It feels good. There is a sense of euphoria in the city centre.”

But with the weather service forecasting showers across much of the country — possibly even snow in the Alps — and most venues allowed to use only half of their outdoor seating, some of the 40 percent of French restaurants that boast a terrace are expected to take a rain check on resuming operations.

On June 9, restaurants will be allowed serve indoors, followed by a further easing of measures on June 30 when the curfew will be fully lifted.

Cafe and restaurant terraces reopened Wednesday after a six-month coronavirus shutdown deprived residents of the essence of French joie de vivre sipping coffee and red wine with friends.

President Emmanuel Macron took a seat at a cafe terrace, chatting with customers. Prime Minister Jean Castex, who planned to attend a cinema later Wednesday, projected a mood of measured optimism.

“Let’s get used to try and live together,” Macron told reporters. “If we manage to get well organized collectively and continue vaccinating, have a common discipline as citizens, there’s no reason why we can’t continue moving forward.

Still, the French government has put limits on how much fun can be had. Movie theaters can only seat 35 per cent of capacity, while museums must restrict entries to allow space between visitors. Restaurants can fill only 50pc of their outdoor seating and have no more than six people at a table.

Macron’s plans to bring France out of the pandemic are not just about bringing long-closed restaurants, boutiques and museums back to life, but also about preparing his possible campaign for a second term. Before next year’s presidential election, Macron is focusing on saving jobs and reviving the pandemic-battered French economy.

France has recorded more than 108,000 deaths due to Covid-19, among the highest tolls in Europe. But virus deaths, admissions to critical care units and the coronavirus infection rate are now on the decline.


Online Desk

D24 Department for Online & Social Trends News
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