‘Time to emerge from virus lockdown’

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Foreign Desk Report

PARIS: French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday said that the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in France has saved tens of thousands of lives but that it was time to ease the restrictions to stave off economic collapse. The death toll in France crossed 23,000 on Monday, the world’s fourth-highest behind the United States, Italy and Spain.
But the government is now looking to take advantage of falling infection rates to rescue a free-falling economy, though Philippe said the French people would have to adapt to a new way of living. “We are going to have to learn to live with the virus,” Philippe told parliament on Tuesday as he began outlining measures to gradually ease the lockdown. “We must learn to live with Covid-19 and to protect ourselves from it.”
Philippe’s government faces a delicate balancing act, keen to relieve the mounting frustration of people holed up in their homes since mid-March without heightening the risk of a second wave of infections if France moves too swiftly.
France would begin emerging from the lockdown on May 11, unless it was unsafe to do so, Philippe said. “If the indicators are not right, we will not unwind the lockdown on May 11, or we will do it more strictly,” he said.
By then, France would have the capacity to conduct 700,000 tests per week, the French prime minister continued. The state would cover the full cost of testing.
Philippe’s address will be followed by a debate and vote in the evening, with just 75 of the French National Assembly’s 577 lawmakers sitting in the chamber to respect social distancing rules.
Meanwhile, the French premier also announced that professional sports leagues, including football and rugby, cannot restart before September because of coronavirus restrictions. The news is also likely to affect the Tour de France, due to embark from Nice on August 29 and where huge crowds would be expected to gather at the start and finish lines.
“The 2019-2020 professional sports leagues, notably football, cannot yet restart,” Philippe announced.