France announced the long-awaited nationwide reopening of bars, restaurants and cafes on June 2, albeit with restrictions, and lifted limitations on domestic travel in time for the summer holidays.
In the capital Paris, where the risk of coronavirus spread remains higher than in the rest of the mainland, only the outside terraces of eating and drinking establishments can reopen to clients, said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
Announcing details of the second phase in a gradual lifting of France’s strict coronavirus lockdown, he said people would no longer be confined to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of their homes.
“Freedom will be the rule and restriction the exception,” said Philippe, adding the country was “in a better place than where we expected to be” after the first two weeks post-lockdown.
After a meeting of top cabinet members to agree on the next phase, the premier said more schools would reopen.
Museums and monuments are to reopen to visitors nationwide from June 2, though face masks must be worn.
Holiday resorts will reopen too, from June 22, and parks and gardens from next week.
Cinemas can open from June 22 while theatres can also open from June 2, although social distancing rules will have to be observed, he said.
But Philippe reiterated that the virus, which has claimed more than 28,500 lives in the country to date, “continues to circulate” with hundreds of people still being treated in intensive care.
He urged people to continue respecting social-distancing measures and maintain a strict hand-washing regime, and said gatherings of more than 10 people in public places would remain prohibited.
It is already mandatory to wear a face mask on public transport.
As for dining out, a mainstay of French culture, Philippe specified people can meet in restaurants and cafes in groups of no more than 10, and with a minimum of one metre (3.3 feet) between tables.
In Paris, only outside tables can be occupied.
Servers and cooks will have to wear masks at all times, and clients upon entering and leaving, said the premier.
As for bars, there will be no drinking at the counter, which carries a higher risk of people contaminating one another.