Terraces and cultural places to reopen in France: different scenarios on the table

Published by Caroline J. · Photos by My B. · Published on 15 April 2021 at 09h48 · Updated on 15 April 2021 at 16h26
This is a new step the French people are highly anticipating: the reopening of the terraces of bars, cafés, and restaurants, as well as of museums and monuments, movie theaters, and show venues. For now, all these places are closed to the public because of the resurgence of the Covid-19 epidemic in the country. But the government has started considering several possible scenarios to reopen these places progressively. What are leads on the table? Keep reading to find out more.

It has been six months that bars, restaurants and cultural places have been closed to the public over the Coronavirus pandemic in the country. As France is currently facing a third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic, Emmanuel Macron is yet to gather most of the government this Friday April 15 at 6 p.m. to examine all the likely protocols to reopen public places currently closed to the public. “This meeting will be about studying all health protocols considered”, the Elysée Palace told the AFP, based on talks led by ministers with “players from the sectors the closure of places applies to”. According to BFMTV, the French President might also address the country by the end of the month.

Laho : la nouvelle terrasse rooftop verdoyante Gare de Lyon à Paris - VidéoLaho : la nouvelle terrasse rooftop verdoyante Gare de Lyon à Paris - VidéoLaho : la nouvelle terrasse rooftop verdoyante Gare de Lyon à Paris - VidéoLaho : la nouvelle terrasse rooftop verdoyante Gare de Lyon à Paris - Vidéo Covid: Emmanuel Macron to host a meeting to talk about reopening protocols this Thursday
This is good news ahead of the exiting lockdown, despite Covid! This Tuesday April 13, the Elysée Palace announced French President Emmanuel Macron is to host – on Thursday April 15 – a meeting to address the progressive protocols to reopen places open to the public.

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According to BFMTV, Emmanuel Macron is likely to address the country before late April to present a detailed reopening calendar for bars, restaurants, cultural places, stores, and other places closed for weeks, and even several months.

During his latest televised address, back to late March, the head of State stated the reopening of these different places could start from mid-May. “I will return to you soon to give details of a reopening schedule for everyone to get prospects. From mid-May, we will start reopening some cultural places. We will allow - under conditions - the opening of terraces, and we will build between mid-May and early summer, a progressive reopening schedule for culture, sport, leisure, events, cafés and restaurants”, the Head of State explained.

A deadline making some people skeptical – such as Alain Fischer. The epidemiologist entrusted with France’s vaccination strategy said this past April 8 he does not “know if this goal could be met on May 15”.

Visuel Paris LouvreVisuel Paris LouvreVisuel Paris LouvreVisuel Paris Louvre Reopening from mid-May: Alain Fischer remains cautious and does not know if this goal could be met
Are come of places closed be able to reopen on May 15, as told this March 31 by Emmanuel Macron during his address? Entrusted with the French vaccinal strategy, Alain Fischer remains cautious because of the very active spread of the virus in the country. Invited on LCI this April 8, he said he does “not know if this goal could be met on May 15”.

So, will places usually open to the public progressively reopen by mid-May as announced by Emmanuel Macron or much later? So far, this question remains without an answer and will once again depend on the evolution of the health situation in the country, and the decrease in hospitalized Covid-sick in France. But, according to LCI, the government does not wish to reuse the lockdown exit strategy instated this past Spring 2020, they now found too rushed.

Furthermore, some ministers want to stay cautious, like Bruno Le Maire. “Preparing the reopening means we first must look at the calendar, then look at the different activities – this is not the same thing: a restaurant-terrace, a restaurant in a room, a hotel, a bar – and then look at the health protocols (…) to make the reopening a success”, the Minister of Economy said on BFMTV.

Scenarios considered to reopen bars and restaurants?

As for bars and restaurants, they might reopen very progressively, depending on the type of activity. Therefore, this past March 16, the executive submitted a three-step reopening scheme to food industry and hotel trade players, each step being four weeks apart from each other. First phase? Reopening hotel breakfast and dinner rooms. Then followed by “the opening of terraces, cafés, and restaurants, as well as facilities’ indoor rooms limited to 50% of their capacity, also applying to hotel restaurants”, GNI – National Group for Hotel and Restaurant Trade Independents – head Didier Chenet claimed.

The third step would involve the complete reopening of bars and restaurants, while keeping up with the health protocol already instated in the Fall 2020 (taking tables apart, recording patrons…). Now we wait and see if this three-step plan is still in the pipes.

Furthermore, the government also spoke about implementing a digital “health pass” enabling holders to access some places – as it is already the case in Denmark. The implementation of a simple QR code is also a lead on the table.

Leads to reopen cultural places

Another reopening highly anticipated by the French? Museums, monuments, movie theaters, and show venues’. This past April 13, the Senate delivered recommendations as for the reopening of these cultural places. According to senators, “museums and monuments, movie theaters, and show venues in seated configuration could be the first ones allowed to progressively reopen” and so “as soon as restrictions instated in France since April 3 are lifted”.

Visuel Paris LouvreVisuel Paris LouvreVisuel Paris LouvreVisuel Paris Louvre Coronavirus: museums to reopen as soon as lockdown is lifted?
As mainland France is going through the third hybrid lockdown, the Senate has been claiming for museum and all cultural places to reopen as soon as lockdown is lifted.

The Senate also recommends custom reopening upon the prefect’s approval – in partnership with local elected representatives – “at the risk of having dates not to be the same for all”.

As for gauges, senators think the “5,000-people gauge kept by the government to ban major gatherings may sound random and does not rely on any scientific ground”. Therefore, gauges could be adapted to the size of the rooms, their layout, and the air system. Once again, they recommend taking is on a case-by-case basis.

The question now is if the members of the government will follow their recommendations or opt for an even reopening.

What about reopening protocols abroad?

France could also have a look at the protocols instated elsewhere in Europe. Great Britain went for a very progressive lockdown exit including – since the beginning of this week – the reopening of “non-necessary” stores, pubs’ and restaurants’ terraces.

As for Belgium, they are expected to reopen “non-necessary” stores from April 26, 2021, then terraces of bars and restaurants from May 8, limiting the number of patrons per table.

As for Norway, the country plans to ease off restrictions in four steps enabling – upon conditions – bars and restaurants to serve alcohol again.

So, which leads will Emmanuel Macron rand the government rule for to reopen places usually open to the public? More in the coming days.

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