France and Belgium ease lockdown rules for return of cafe culture

Travel restrictions relaxed for arrivals from EU states and seven other countries

France and Belgium have eased coronavirus lockdown measures on the road to a full reopening.

But as French citizens were allowed to enjoy a coffee and croissant at an indoor cafe for the first time in months, Prime Minister Jean Castex was beginning seven days’ isolation after his wife tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Castex has received a first vaccination against the virus and had a negative test on Wednesday evening, the prime minister's office said, but "as a contact case, he is in solitary confinement”.

The latest lifting of measures includes allowing gyms to reopen and indoor service in restaurants, much to the delight of French citizens frustrated by a cycle of lockdown.

"I put on the alarm clock this morning, it was super-early, I saw the sun, I said to myself: this is the beginning of a new life!" said Stephanie Moscoso, 35, of Paris.

What can you do in France?

Restaurants and bars can operate indoors at 50 per cent capacity.

Outdoor terraces can reopen fully.

Gyms and swimming pools can reopen at 50 per cent capacity.

A gym user trains at a sports hall in Herouville-Saint-Clair, northwestern France, on June 9, 2021, as the country eases lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19 disease caused by the coronavirus. / AFP / Sameer Al-DOUMY
A gym user trains at a sports hall in Herouville-Saint-Clair, northwestern France. AFP

The overnight curfew is pushed back so that people can stay outside until 11pm.

Work from home rules are eased and bosses have to agree on staffing levels with employees in advance.

Shops can allow twice as many customers, with capacity increased up to one patron per four sq metres.

A new health pass is being introduced allowing people who are vaccinated or have proof of Covid antibodies to attend large events of more than 1,000 people.

epa09258692 Spectators leave Philippe-Chatrier due to COVID-19 curfew during the quarter final match between Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Matteo Berrettini of Italy at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 09 June 2021. EPA/YOAN VALAT
Health passes kick in for large scale events and audiences. EPA

Museums can welcome double the number of visitors as permitted capacity increases to one patron per four sq metres.

Cinemas, theatres, zoos and circus big tops can occupy 65 per cent of seating capacity.

Casinos can open at 50 per cent capacity.

Trade shows and funfairs can reopen at 50 per cent capacity.

Non-vaccinated EU residents and visitors from seven countries – Australia, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea – need only to produce a recent negative Covid-19 antigen or PCR test.

Fully vaccinated people from elsewhere, including the UK, UAE and the US, must provide a negative test but will no longer have to provide a compelling reason for travel.

What are the next steps?

Visitors gather at the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. France is back in business as a tourist destination after opening its borders Wednesday to foreign visitors who are inoculated against the coronavirus with vaccines approved by the European Union's medicines agency. France's acceptance of only the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines means that tourism is still barred for would-be visitors from China and other countries that use other vaccines. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Visitors gather at the Eiffel Tower, in Paris.AP

A decision on the next lockdown easing, which is scheduled for June 30, will be made in due course.

The overnight curfew could be scrapped if infection rates stay low.

Face masks remain required, even outdoors.

France, one of Europe's hardest hit countries – has seen a drop off in coronavirus cases after a grim winter. The numbers in intensive care are down to 2,394 compared with 6,000 in late April.

After a stuttering start to its vaccination campaign, the government is now on course to reach its target of 30 million people with at least one dose by June 15.

Belgium also relaxed restrictions, allowing cafes and restaurants to serve indoors from Wednesday.

Belgians can now visit each other at home, with up to four visitors permitted.

Published: June 10, 2021 01:06 PM

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