'Enfin la Liberté...'
Time marches on. Spring is turning to summer with the first cut of hay now rolled up into bales in the château meadows. We should have had weddings and guests at the château already this year. So what is the latest news from France?
Last Thursday, the French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, along with his Education minister and Health Minister, revealed plans for the next step in the Déconfinement of France, which will begin tomorrow on the 2nd of June.
“Freedom will once more be the rule, with restrictions the exception”
Premier Ministre Edouard Philippe was cautiously optimistic about the state of play concerning coronavirus in France, and, like a teacher well-trained in positive reinforcement techniques for classroom management, made sure during his speech to praise les français for their good behaviour in sticking to travel bans and the rules of social distancing.
Phase one of déconfinement has generally been a success, he said: the rates of Covid-19 infection are under control with a system of Protection, Testing and Isolation in place, and Intensive Care Units in hospitals are now running at a manageable 30% capacity.
A new map, shown below, was unveiled at the press conference. Happily the vast majority of France is now classed as green – the virus is under control and hospital beds are readily available – with only a small area around Paris (and a couple of overseas French départements) now classed ‘orange for caution’.
Restaurants, cafés and bars to re-open
The big news of this second phase, as expected and very much hoped for, is that restaurants, bars and cafés will be allowed to re-open. With restrictions. Tables must have 1 metre distance between them and a maximum of 10 people per table, and anyone standing up or moving around is to wear a mask. In orange areas, for the moment, only the outdoor spaces of restaurants, bars and cafés will be allowed to re-open.
In green areas, and in a boost to tourism, campsites will now join hotels, gîtes and chambre d’hôtes as open for business. Meanwhile holiday camps in both zones will have to wait until the 22nd of June to hear their fate but are expected, along with cinemas, to be able to re-open from that date.
In another boost to tourism, the 100km travel restriction will be lifted from tomorrow throughout France, and, for this summer at least, the French are being dissuaded from holidays outside France in favour of “Bleu Blanc Rouge” holidays.
From tomorrow, more freedom
From tomorrow in France we will be able to travel around the country freely again: to go to beaches, parks, forests and lakes; visit monuments, museums and zoos – even go to the theatre, gym, public swimming pools and theme parks in green zones. But all of these will still be under conditions of social distancing, with some stricter conditions in départements classed now as orange.
This second phase of déconfinement will last for three weeks, until the 21st of June, and will be reviewed in time for the 22nd of June when we will be told the measures for the next stage of, hopefully, our return to normality.
But what about tourism from outside France?
On the 15th of June a decision will be made EU-wide as to the re-opening of the temporary borders within Europe, as well as the EU’s external borders outside the Schengen Zone. This date will be key for any of you still hoping to come to the château in July, August or September this year and we will keep you informed of developments.
The Premier Ministre of France did however state in his speech that any 14-day quarantine imposed on French citizens and residents travelling to another country “would be reciprocated”.
Britain, I think he may have been looking at you at that point.