PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron has extended France’s lockdown until May 11, when activities will gradually start to resume — starting with schools and commerce, while cinemas, bars, museums and restaurants will open at a later stage.
“The epidemic is not yet controlled, we must continue our efforts and continue to apply to the rules. The more they are respected the more lives will be saved,” said Macron, speaking on French television.
“May 11 will only be possible if we continue to be civic, responsible and respect the rules, and if the spread of the virus continues to slow,” he added.
France imposed strict lockdown rules in the country starting March 17, and the economic impact has been steep, reducing economic activity by about a third.
Partial unemployment measures and financing for companies will be extended, Macron pledged, noting that more than 8 million people are currently drawing on unemployment benefits.
The French president said he has asked his government to extend and simplify economic assistance, and that he wants banks to extend payment deadlines more than they have so far, and insurance companies to take part in economic efforts.
“I will be attentive,” he said.
The country is also drawing up plans to assist sectors related to tourism, hotels, restaurants, culture and events. Ministers will meet this week to decide new measures, the French president said.
Outlining plans to get as many people back to work as possible — in industry, services and commerce, and opening up day care centers, and schools up through high school — Macron cautioned that rules could evolve as the lockdown lifts.
“May 11 will therefore be the beginning of a new step. It will be progressive, the rules may be adapted in function of the results — the primary objective is the health of all French people,” he said.
Higher education will continue to be conducted remotely until the summer.
Locations that entail gatherings of people such as restaurants, cafes, hotels, cinemas, theaters and museums will remain closed, and large events like festivals will be banned until at least mid-July, he added.
Frontiers will also remain closed to non-European Union countries, he also said, until further notice.
“We will manage to conquer it, but we still have several months of living with this virus,” he said.
“Look at Asia, the virus seemed to have been conquered but it is returning to a number of countries, and they have decided to close their frontiers again, so we will proceed with calm and courage,” he added.
The coronavirus crisis has weighed heavily on the French economy, which has entered a recession, with first-quarter GDP expected down 6 percent. France is betting on a range of government measures to keep workers employed as much as possible, drawing on lessons from Germany’s response to the 2008 crisis.