PARIS — France continues to lift lockdown measures in place since mid-March, with plans to open parks, museums, restaurants and bars starting next week.
“We can move more quickly now that the results on the health care front are good,” said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe Thursday.
“Freedom will now become the rule, while restrictions will be the exception,” he added.
The government will lift a 100-kilometer, or 62-mile, travel restriction and people will be allowed to circulate throughout the country.
With the spread of the coronavirus slowing in France, the government is focusing on the looming financial troubles, said Philippe, warning of a “massive economic shock.”
Figures released Thursday showed a 22.6 percent increase in the country’s unemployment rolls and the statistics agency Insee forecast a 20 percent contraction in France’s economy over the second quarter.
Restaurants and bars will be allowed to open, with some restrictions, and limited to outdoor terraces in the Paris region. Masks will be required for museums and monuments, while cinemas, theaters, pools and gyms will reopen later in June in Paris.
Gatherings will be restricted to 10 people or less and sports and cultural event remain suspended.
France kicked off its reopening phase on May 11, starting with stores, although large shopping centers and the famed Haussmann department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette were not included in the first wave of openings.
Printemps opened Thursday after winning an appeal against a decision by government authorities with an administrative court. The department store, which operates in a cluster of buildings surrounding the Boulevard Haussmann flagship, closed off skybridge passageways linking various stores and set up a single entryway to each.
Government officials had ruled against allowing commercial centers exceeding 40,000 square meters, or 430,000 square feet, to resume business during the initial phases of reopening.
Printemps, in its appeal, argued that the flagship consists of three separate stores for men, women and a combination of beauty and home decoration, while emphasizing the reduced traffic with the absence of tourists. The store is requiring visitors to wear masks, and has set up sanitizer gel stations at the entrance.
Clients lined up ahead of the 11 a.m. opening, and a steady stream of visitors continued throughout the day Thursday, according to a spokeswoman.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, the flagship had counted 20 million visitors a year.
European mall operator Klépierre said this week it has reopened the majority of shopping centers in Europe, with malls in the Paris region expected to join the next wave of reopenings in Portugal and Spain in the coming weeks, which will bring the proportion on reopened malls to 90 percent from the current level of 80 percent.
Restrictions remain in place on activities like restaurants and cinemas in a number of countries, the mall operator noted, saying the restrictions affect around 5 percent of the group’s yearly rent roll.
In France, sales over the Internet grew 1.8 percent over the first quarter, according to e-commerce federation Fevad on Thursday. The federation said this was the lowest growth level it had ever recorded, noting that the same period last year had clocked an 11.9 percent increase.
Internet sales slowed in March, as the crisis began to hit the country, with a drop off in sales related to traveling, and average baskets were down.
The association noted that consumers began readjusting spending in March, spending less on clothing and decoration. Most non-food retailers saw a reduction in sales over the period, and in March, large apparel labels saw a decline of around 30 percent.
In April, however, improvement in apparel sales helped compensate for business declines in March and categories like household goods, beauty products, sports and gardening grew.