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President annouces three-step deconfinement

The strict measures introduced in late October will be partially lifted in three rounds: first at the end of November and then in the middle of December, with a third round to be announced in the second half of January.

The movement restrictions will remain in force for now and they may only be lifted after 15 December. Shops selling non-essential products can reopen, bookstores and libraries can be visited. Bars and restaurants, however, must stay closed, according to an announcement by Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday night. In his televised address to the nation, the French president outlined a three-step deconfinement plan. 

The president said the restrictions introduced on 30 October had been effective, so the worst of the second wave of the coronavirus was over in France. He also noted that the number of new cases per day dropped significantly, from 60 thousand to 20 thousand last week.

According to the announcement, the next key date for France will be 28 November, when some restrictions will be rescinded, while others will remain unchanged. A document will still be necessary for leaving one's place of residence, home office rules remain in force, and people must continue to avoid any unnecessary travel.

However, shops selling non-essential goods and services may reopen and receive customers until 9 pm. Bookstores, music stores and libraries may also be visited from 28 November.

If the number of daily Covid-19 cases remains below 5,000, the second phase of lifting restrictions will begin on 15 December. The lockdown will end and inter-regional travel will be permitted, meaning that family members living far from each other may gather to celebrate Christmas together. Non-essential trips, however, will still be discouraged. Cinemas, theatres, museums can reopen under strict health regulations, but the ban on large gatherings will remain in place. Amusement parks, bars, restaurants, and night clubs will have to stay shut even after mid-December. Taking effect on 15 December, a curfew will be imposed from 9 pm to 7 am, with the provision that everyone will be free to leave home on the eves of 24 and 31 December. The ban, however, on large public gatherings will stay in force.

The third phase of easing the restrictions is expected to commence on 20 January, when gyms and restaurants will be permitted to reopen if the daily number of new infections remains below 5 thousand. Secondary schools can also return to classroom teaching and, if all goes well, universities can also resume teaching two weeks later.

The French president promised that, starting from early January, coronavirus test results will be available no later than 24 hours after being taken.

Speaking about vaccination plans, the head of state said that the first vaccines can be administered after approval by health authorities, adding that a scientific committee will be tasked with monitoring the follow-up checks after the approval of the vaccines. Vaccination can begin in late December or early January, starting with the most vulnerable and the elderly, but taking the jab will not be mandatory.

Emmanuel Macron also touched on the pandemic's economic fallout. He said it would take a long time for life in France to get back to normal, adding that the government will work out an additional support system, as the crisis is likely to worsen. Businesses forced to remain closed, such as restaurants, sport halls, and clubs will receive help from a so-called solidarity fund until 20 January, provided they comply with all the health regulations. Affected businesses will have a choice of receiving up to 10 thousand euros or 20 per cent of their registered turnovers during the same period last year.

In conclusion, the French president underlined that he takes full responsibility for all his decisions and drew attention to the importance of solidarity and cooperation.  "Today we stand together, tomorrow we will win together," Emmanuel Macron concluded his address.

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