France to reopen on Monday, Paris region to unwind lockdown more slowly

Beyond the Paris area, administrative regions around Calais, Strasbourg and Dijon will also remain classified as “red zones”, where some restrictions will remain - such as keeping parks, gardens and secondary schools shut.

FILE: A person walks in the empty Lyon Part Dieu mall in Lyon on 17 March 2020, as a strict lockdown comes into effect in France to stop the spreading of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. A strict lockdown requiring most people in France to remain at home came into effect at midday on 17 March 2020, prohibiting all but essential outings in a bid to curb the coronavirus spread. Picture: AFP.

PARIS - France is ready to start unwinding its coronavirus lockdown from next Monday as planned, the prime minister said on Thursday, although some regions including the Paris area where the disease is still circulating would keep some restrictions.

The country has made enough progress in slowing down the spread of the virus and reducing strain in hospitals to gradually return to normal, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said. Schools, cafes and most shops have been shut for nearly two months.

“From Monday we will progressively unwind the lockdown that started on March 17 ... but the country is cut in two, with the virus circulating more quickly in some regions, notably in the Paris region, which is very densely populated,” he said.

“In the Paris region, the infection rate is falling slowly, but it remains very high, higher than we expected. That is why in these territories we will need to be extra vigilant.”

Beyond the Paris area, administrative regions around Calais, Strasbourg and Dijon will also remain classified as “red zones”, where some restrictions will remain - such as keeping parks, gardens and secondary schools shut.

In other parts of France, secondary schools, cafes and restaurants may open from early June if the infection rate remains low, Philippe said.

Next week, about 1 million children and 130,000 teachers will return to school, the education minister said.

Some 25,809 people have died of COVID-19 in France, according to official data.