Macron expected to announce easing of COVID rules in coming days - minister

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Paris, Apr. 27 (BNA): French President Emmanuel Macron will probably make an announcement on plans to relax COVID-19 restrictions in the next few days, employment minister Elisabeth Borne told BFM TV on Tuesday.

France, the euro zone's second biggest economy, started its third national lockdown at the end of March after suffering a spike in COVID-19 deaths and case numbers.

Macron is hoping the effects of that lockdown, along with an accelerated vaccination campaign, will improve France's COVID-19 figures, which would then allow certain businesses and leisure activities - such as outdoors dining - to reopen in mid May, Reuters reported.

French schools reopened on Monday after a three-week closure. 

Macron has said that while open-air bar and restaurant terraces may reopen in mid-May, indoor venues will not re-open before June, and only in regions where the COVID-19 figures have dropped sufficiently to allow this.

French restaurants will reopen in a staggered fashion and on a regional basis, depending on the extent to which the COVID-19 epidemic is brought under control, President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday.

French bars and restaurants have been closed since the end of October, when France started a second month-long nationwide lockdown, and did not reopen in December when non-food shops were allowed to.

"I think we cannot reopen the restaurants end-May or in June in those departments where the virus still circulates a lot.

 Elsewhere, where (circulation) has dropped a lot, we will take a staggered approach," Macron said during a visit to a school near Paris on the first day of their reopening after a three-week closure.

He said that bar and restaurant open-air terraces would be allowed to reopen nationwide around mid-May with a decision to be taken in coming days.

But he added that a full reopening of indoor venues would depend on the health situation, possibly from early to late June in regions with low virus circulation rates.

"For restaurants, we know that infection rates are higher in enclosed spaces, and when people eat, sing and talk. That is what we will have to try and limit for a while," he said.