The European nation France has offered the retailers some relief on Thursday, stating that it wanted them to reopen with the end of the nationwide lockdown on May 11, even though some curbs may stay in certain areas for delaying a new wave of coronavirus or COVID-19.
The government has ruled out the restaurants, bars and cafes from reopening after lockdown gets over, and the Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also indicated restrictions were most probably will remain in regions worst-hit by the novel virus.
France asks retailers to reopen after Coronavirus lockdown gets over
"We want all retailers to be able to open on May 11 in the same way out of fairness," Le Maire told France Info radio, though he said protocols would first have to be worked out to protect clients and workers alike. France has suffered the world's fourth-highest reported coronavirus death toll of more than 20,000, with more than 158,000 infections.
President Emmanuel Macron ordered the lockdown in mid-March to slow the spread of the virus, but the government has been working on a plan that would minimise the chances of France being hit by a second wave of coronavirus cases when it ends. The government is under pressure to get the economy running again as soon as possible, even from within Macron's own party, but it has made clear that curbs will remain on travel between regions after May 11.
Le Maire did not say where restrictions on retailers could remain, but the areas hit hardest by the coronavirus are eastern France and the Paris region. Western France has been affected much less, and there are concerns that removing restrictions on travel between regions could increase its exposure. Retail outlets that do reopen will need to adapt strict rules to limit the number of people in shops at one time.
Restaurants, cafes and bars will not reopen until mid-June at the earliest, and sports and religious gatherings will be banned at least until then, but people will in principle no longer need a document to walk the streets or go jogging.
PREVENTING A SECOND WAVE
Public Health Authority chief Jerome Salomon also added a note of caution, telling a parliamentary hearing on Thursday that lifting the lockdown would depend on a substantial fall in the number of people sick and in intensive care.
"France's goal is not to create collective immunity by creating a second and then a third wave, that seems too dangerous to us," Salomon said. "The goal is to prevent the circulation of the virus, and to create favourable conditions to gain time before the arrival of effective drugs or vaccines."
Less than 10 percent of France's 67 million population is expected to have contracted the virus by the end of the lockdown. The government is also looking at limiting the movements of older people, who are more susceptible to contracting the virus, and the government has made clear that people "will not live as before" after the lockdown ends.
Companies have been told to encourage employees to continue working from home if they can, as this would limit the number of people using public transport. The government wants to ensure face masks are available to the public by the end of the lockdown, though it is unclear whether it will be compulsory to wear them. The government also aims to increase the number of tests to about 700,000 a week, from about 200,000 at the moment, Salomon said. It is also assessing whether those who test positive can then be isolated to break the transmission chain.
(With agency inputs)