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France eases lockdown as bars, restaurants, museums and cinemas to reopen May 19

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By Euronews
Empty restaurants in the center of Lyon, central France on October 2, 2020.
Empty restaurants in the center of Lyon, central France on October 2, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani
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French bars and restaurants as well as cultural sites and non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen to customers on May 19.

President Emmanuel Macron outlined the phasing out of restrictions in an interview with regional newspapers on Thursday.

Some of the steps, including the reopening of borders to foreign tourists from June 9, will only be possible with a health pass attesting the holder has either been vaccinated, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has recently recovered from it.

The country has been under a third national lookdown since April 3, following a surge of infections blamed on the spread of COVID-19 variants. The current restrictions include a 7 pm nighttime curfew, a ban on travelling further than 10 km away from home, and the closure of all non-essential businesses.

France's four-phase timetable for easing restrictions

Here are the key dates in France next round of easing:

May 3: The 10-km travel ban is lifted and people can travel cross-country.

May 19: The nighttime curfew is pushed back by two hours to 9 pm; non-essential shops can reopen; outdoor drinking and dining permitted with a maximum of six people at the same table; cultural venues including museums, cinemas, and theatres can reopen with a maximum capacity of 800 indoor and 1,000 outdoor; outdoor sporting venues can reopen with capacity capped at 1,000.

These are conditional on the epidemiological situation with areas where the incidence rate is over 400 cases per 100,000 population not allowed to proceed.

June 9: The curfew is pushed back by another two hours to 11 pm; bars and restaurants are allowed to welcome customers indoors with a maximum of six people per table; capacity at cultural and sporting venues is increased to 5,000 people with health passes; gyms can reopen with physical activity, including team sports, allowed both indoors and outdoors; large exhibitions and fairs can be held and welcome up to 5,000 people with health passes; foreign tourists with health passes can enter the country.

June 30: the curfew is lifted as is the 1,000 capacity rule for large events but attendees will be required to show their health passes; nightclubs remain closed.

France is the EU's second most-impacted country with nearly 104,000 deaths recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.

Three weeks into its latest lockdown, the number of new daily infections remains high with more than 31,500 cases recorded on Wednesday. This is down from about 50,000 before the lockdown.

But vaccination is gathering pace. More than 14.6 million people have received their first dose with 6.1 million now fully vaccinated. The country of 67 million aims to have administered 20 million first doses by mid-May and 30 million by mid-June.

Its COVID-19 tracking application has also since last week allowed users to store vaccination certificates and test results to allow for travel with its overseas territories. The government said that this functionality will be converted to match the European Green Certificate when it launches in late May/early June.