By Agence France-Presse
It is too early to say whether summer holidays will be possible, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday, as the country prepares to ease a two-month coronavirus lockdown.
School and business closures and stay-at-home orders imposed in mid-March will begin to be lifted from May 11, but businesses like cafes and bars will remain closed and people will not be allowed to travel more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) from their homes.
Macron said in a televised interview that officials should know by early June if France has averted a new flare-up of COVID-19, as the country’s death toll rose to 25,531 on Tuesday.
“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,” he said.
Scores of events have already been cancelled and people arriving from outside Europe will need to spend two weeks in isolation, a blow to the tourism industry in the world’s most-visited country.
“The virus is still here, we have not beaten it,” Macron said.
The president’s approval rating slid six points down in a month, according to a poll by Ifop-Fiducial out on Tuesday.
Some 40 percent of the around 1,000 people surveyed on April 29 and 30 said they approved of the president.
His government faces growing criticism of its post-lockdown plans, in particular the move to start reopening schools next week even though students in hard-hit Italy and Spain will not return to school until September.
Nearly 330 mayors in the greater Paris region have urged the government to delay the school openings, saying 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 was “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”.
Ministers are set to meet on Thursday to finalise post-lockdown measures and determine which regions are still facing critical 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,” he said.