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What does France's COVID-19 health emergency extension mean?

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What does France's COVID-19 health emergency extension mean?
Copyright  Francois Mori/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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While France is preparing to loosen its lockdown measures on May 11, the nation's health emergency status has been extended until July 24.

The state of emergency, declared initially on March 22, is also going to contain new measures, France's Health and Interior ministers announced. People in France will have to wait until Monday to ascertain what precisely these measures mean in real terms.

What has been stipulated is that these are precautionary measures intended to avoid a rebound of the virus outbreak.

But importantly, the date and the proposals for the easing of the confinement measures have not changed with this announcement.

On May 11, shops are still scheduled to reopen in France and people will finally be allowed out of their homes without having to carry a self-certification.

What does the emergency extension bill entail?

The bill is set to arrive in the Senate on Monday, before it goes to the National Assembly on Tuesday.

The new health measures were more concerned with travel restrictions and were endorsed "unanimously" by the country's scientific committee.

They will require all people entering mainland and overseas France territory to quarantine for two weeks.

The government, however, will not impose quarantine on those who tested positive whilst already on French territory, as the government asserted it trusts "the spirit of responsibility" of the country.

The bill also envisages the creation of an information system centred on a controversial tracing app "intended to identify infected people, as well as those who are likely to be infected or got in close proximity to infected people".

However, the "controversial" app StopCovid will not be available on May 11, Health Minister Veran said, adding that it won't be released prior to "a specific debate in Parliament".

In addition, "brigades" of up to 3,000 health workers will be formed to provide the government with comprehensive lists of infected people.

Furthermore, as face-masks become compulsory on public transport from May 11, police officers and many other security officers will be able to sanction those who do not comply.

Lockdown restrictions to be eased on May 11

Gradual lifting of lockdown measures will begin on May 11, as previously reported.

"On May 11, if the conditions are met, the general rule will return freedom of movement and the French will no longer have to produce a certificate to go out on the street," said Castaner.

Travelling without self-certification will be possible, but only within 100 kilometres of one's registered address.

The government is to issue more specific guidelines on this in the coming days. But from what has been delineated so far, the stipulations assert that:

  • It will be possible to travel across different regions, regardless of their "red" or "green" classification.
  • Shops will reopen, but they will have to keep social-distancing measures in place.
  • Primary schools will reopen too, but with a maximum of 15 children per class.
  • Schools will have to respect a very strict health protocol: repeated hand washing, prohibited games, equipment disinfection and marked traffic flow on the ground.