France reopened Cafe and bistro terraces

PARIS — Finally after a six-month coronavirus shutdown, cafe and restaurant terraces reopened on Wednesday

The French government is lifting restrictions incrementally to stave off a resurgence of COVID-19 and to give citizens back some of their world-famous lifestyles. As part of the plan’s first stage, France’s 7 p.m. nightly curfew was pushed back to 9 p.m., and museums, theaters, and cinemas reopened along with outdoor cafe terraces.

President Emmanuel Macron took a seat at a café terrace, chatting with customers. Prime Minister Jean Castex, who planned to attend a cinema later Wednesday, projected a mood of measured optimism.

“Let’s get used to trying and living together,” Macron told reporters. “If we manage to get well organized collectively and continue vaccinating, have a common discipline as citizens, there’s no reason why we can’t continue moving forward.”

France is not the first European country to start getting back a semblance of social and cultural life. Italy, Belgium, Hungary, and other nations already allow outdoor dining while drinking and eating indoors began Monday in Britain.

Eateries in France have been closed since the end of October, the longest time of any European country except Poland, where bars and restaurants reopened Saturday for outdoor service after being closed for seven months.

Still, the French government has put limits on how much fun can be had. Movie theaters can only seat 35% of capacity, while museums must restrict entries to allow space between visitors. Restaurants can fill only 50% of their outdoor seating and have no more than six people at a table.

Starting on June 9, the French government plans to move the curfew back to 11 p.m. and to permit indoor dining. Also on that date, France will begin to welcome tourists from non-EU destinations provided they have some sort of coronavirus passport or health pass. The final phase of the three-stage reopening plan is scheduled for June 30, when the curfew will end and all other restrictions will be lifted if pandemic conditions allow.

Macron’s plans to bring France out of the pandemic aren’t just about bringing long-closed restaurants, boutiques, and museums back to life, but also about preparing his possible campaign for a second term. Before next year’s presidential election, Macron is focusing on saving jobs and reviving the pandemic-battered French economy.

France has recorded more than 108,000 deaths due to COVID-19, among the highest tolls in Europe. But virus deaths, admissions to critical care units, and the coronavirus infection rate are now on the decline.

About 40% of France’s adult population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose — but that rate is still well behind Britain’s 70% and behind several other EU nations.

Tourists waited with excitement and palpable emotion as the cordon around the world’s most visited museum and home of the “Mona Lisa,” the Louvre, was finally lifted.

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