France’s prime minister has warned that it is too early to let the guard down in the fight against Covid-19 and confirmed that French people will need to wait until January 20 for bars and restaurant to reopen.

Speaking on Thursday morning, Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed that France’s lockdown was starting to have an impact on the nation’s infection rate. He noted that the country’s ‘R’ is now 0.65, one of the lowest in Europe.

However, Castex also told the public that it was too early to think about normal life returning to France. The figures “remain fragile,” he claimed, adding “this is why it is premature to speak of deconfinement.”

The PM said that the infection rate was reaching the low levels set during the first lockdown in early 2020, but claimed the state needed to be wary.

“The situation looks different than last May when the confinement was [implemented]: the winter weather conditions and the end of year celebrations are two risk factors,” he added.

The PM also confirmed the unpopular decision to prevent bars and restaurants reopening until January 20.

Castex described it as an “an extremely difficult decision… these establishments, in spite of the strict protocols put in place, remain places of high viral contamination.” 

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a three-stage plan to lift the coronavirus lockdown. The plan, which will kick in on Saturday, was heavily criticized for postponing the opening of restaurants and bars for almost another two months. 

France remains one of the countries in world most afflicted by Covid-19. Castex confirmed that over the past seven days, the authorities registered an average of 17,000 new cases a day.

The nation has now registered more than 50,000 Covid deaths since the pandemic started. 

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