Coronavirus: Too early to say if summer vacations possible, Macron tells French

Macron wearing a protective mask as he speaks to pupils during a visit at the Pierre Ronsard elementary school in Poissy, west of Paris, on May 5, 2020. (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday it was too early to say if vacations will be possible this summer, even as the country prepares a gradual lifting of a two-month coronavirus lockdown.

The government will start easing on May 11 the school and business closures and strict stay-at-home orders imposed since mid-March against a virus that has killed more than 25,000 people in France.

But people will not be allowed to travel more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from their homes for the time being, and bars, cafes restaurants and cinemas will remain closed.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Macron said in a televised interview that officials should know by early June if France has averted a new flare-up of COVID-19 cases that could overwhelm hospitals.

“We’re going to limit major international travel, even during the summer holidays. We will remain among Europeans, and maybe we will have to limit that even more.”

Scores of summer concerts, sporting events and other activities have already been cancelled, and until July 24 at least, France will require people arriving from outside Europe to remain in isolation for two weeks - effectively ending many overseas trips as well as the country’s hugely important tourism industry.

“The virus is still here, we have not beaten it,” Macron warned.

Macron’s government faces growing criticism of its post-lockdown plans, in particular the move to start reopening schools next week, even as hard-hit European neighbors Italy and Spain push back any return to class until September.

Nearly 330 mayors in the greater Paris region have urged the government to push back the school openings, saying the strict health measures including a limit of 15 students per class are proving difficult to implement.

But parents worried about exposing their children to infection will not be forced to return them to school.

“I understand their questions, their concerns,” Macron said, though he added: “For a child, being forced to stay home for two months is quite a traumatic experience.”

He said his goal is “for all students who need to return, because they are falling behind, because their families are unable to help them study, because their parents have to work... that they are able to go to school.”

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Government ministers are set to meet Thursday to finalize the post-lockdown measures and determine which regions are still facing critical contagion risks, which could limit any easing of travel restrictions.

Macron also urged people to continue with social distancing and other protections to limit the outbreak.

“We don’t want to start sliding back after three weeks” and be forced to reimpose lockdowns, he said.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:58 - GMT 06:58
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