President Emmanuel Macron has delivered a reassuring address to the nation, saying that an easing of France’s Covid-19 lockdown will begin so that people can spend the Christmas holiday with their families.

“The peak of the second wave has passed,” Macron said on Tuesday night, but added that it was still necessary “to continue our effort” to stem the spread of the disease.

The president announced a three-step plan for lifting the coronavirus lockdown in the country, which will kick in on the weekend with the reopening of shops, with the run-up to Christmas a crucial period for retailers. People will also be allowed to exercise outside for three hours per day, but a permit will still be required to leave the house for other reasons.

The lifting of France’s nationwide lockdown is expected on December 15, so long as the number of new daily cases remains below 5,000. Cinemas and theatres will also be able to open their doors to spectators.

However, a curfew is to remain in place and will only be relaxed for Christmas – from December 24 to December 31. During this period, residents will be able to travel freely to spend the holidays with their families, though public gatherings will still be banned. The curfew will be lifted for good only when the outbreak stabilizes, while restaurants, bars and cafes will stay shut at least until January 20, according to the plan. The same goes for gyms and swimming pools.

“We must do everything to avoid a third wave, do everything to avoid a third lockdown,” Macron urged.

The president also announced that vaccinations for the coronavirus, which has so far infected 2.1 million and killed more than 49,000 in France, will begin in late December or early January. The jab won’t be compulsory, however, and the most vulnerable groups are set to get the shots first. A wider distribution of vaccines is expected sometime in the spring.

Like this story? Share it with a friend!