PARIS -- After being under one of the strictest quarantine measures in Europe amid the novel coronavirus, France is taking steps to reopen the country, although gradually and with some regional adaptation.
Starting Monday, people won't be compelled to stay home and will be allowed to gather in groups of up to 10 people inside or outside.
For 55 days, French officials have asked people to follow social-distancing guidelines and stay indoors as the amount of cases in the country have continued to grow, with the country now having the sixth most amount of COVID-19 cases worldwide, after the U.S., Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and Russia, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. France was the first country in Europe to record cases of the coronavirus.
On May 6, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that the country was where it needed to be to start with phase 1 of its reopening on May 11.
Small shops and markets can open with restrictions on the amount of people, while bars, restaurants, cafes and large museums will remain closed. Many schools will reopen on Tuesday. To accompany the return to work of 875,000 French and the reopening of 400,000 companies, mask-wearing will be mandatory on public transportation.
The biggest change for the more than 60 million living in France will be the freedom again to leave their home without a permission form, which indicated their justification for leaving their residence was among a list of seven approved reasons.
Jogging and other individual sports activities, which had been banned during the day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., will be allowed again in Paris at all times. But movements between regions and administrative districts will be restricted: people are asked not to go further than a 100 km radius (62 miles) from their home, unless they can show a compelling reason.
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However, the country still faces the challenge of, in the prime minister’s words, being "split in two." Four regions, including the greater Paris area, are still in the "red" zone to signify remaining pressure on hospitals, and will remain under stricter guidelines, with middle schools, parks and public gardens remaining closed.
The prime minister has referred to France's phase 1 as "a freedom regime in which exceptions must be organized".
Under the lockdown, the French economy entered recession, shrinking around 6% in the first quarter of this year, which according to the National Bank of France was the lowest since 1945.
France’s economy had started shrinking at the end of last year but the coronavirus crisis pushed the country into a rapid downward spiral as shops, restaurants and hotels stayed shut.
The epidemic has left over 26,380 dead in France and the country, which did not choose to test massively, recorded 176,782 cases in total. On May 10, 70 people died in a 24-hour period, the lowest number recorded since the beginning of the lockdown on March 17.
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This report was featured in the Monday, May 11, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.
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