French restaurants hope to open for lunch at the end of March
Restaurants in France are now hoping to reopen for lunch at the end of March, with additional health protocols in place, following a meeting last week with the Prime Minister’s office.
The evening opening would follow in early April according to the suggested plans.
Restaurants, cafes and bars have now been closed for more than four months in France, since October 29, 2020.
The reopening was originally scheduled for January 20 but was postponed as daily cases remained above government targets and health experts feared a spike in the spread of the virus after the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
No new reopening date has yet been communicated.
See the latest daily figures here: Coronavirus: daily update on the situation in France
Proposed three-step reopening plan
On March 5, hospitality industry representatives met with Prime Minister Jean Castex and other senior government ministers to outline a three-step reopening plan.
Representatives said the first step should include restaurants that are allowed to open for lunch customers and restaurants in hotels that can serve meals to customers from the end of March.
This follows a recent call from deputies so that restaurants can open for lunch in March.
The second phase, allowing restaurants to open for evening services, would start from April 10.
Bars and nightclubs could open from June, in the third phase.
This plan could be adapted in areas where the health situation is more serious, representatives said, such as the northwest coast of France.
Didier Chenet, president of the GNI hotel union, told the newspaper The world: “Brittany and the Atlantic coast could be in the lead [in this group]. ”
Reopening depends on the success of the vaccine
The timeline follows messages from the government that current health restrictions could be relaxed in the coming weeks.
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In a speech on March 4, Prime Minister Jean Castex said “it was not yet time to ease restrictions anywhere”, but that he could consider easing restrictions from mid-April .
But, the Prime Minister did not give a more precise date during the meeting on Friday.
Jean-Virgile Crance, president of the GNC-UMIH hotel union, told a news source West France: “He clarified that the key is that vulnerable people in France must be vaccinated [before we can open], which should be the case by mid-April or mid-May.
As of March 6, figures from the Ministry of Health show that a third of people aged 75 and over in France have received at least a first dose of the vaccine.
New health measures possible
Possible new sanitary measures for reopened restaurants were also discussed during the meeting.
As the government debated implementation of a Covid health pass to allow access to public spaces, representatives of the hospitality industry said they were opposed to the idea of “vaccine passports” for customers.
Instead, a source said The world that they envisioned the TousAntiCovid application to be “at the heart of contact tracing” in restaurants.
The introduction of QR codes in establishments for customers to digitally register their presence is also under consideration.
Union representatives said they hope other sanitary measures put in place in fall 2020 will remain the same, including tables that can seat up to six customers with a forced distance of one meter between them.
Unions ask for financial help
Representatives of the hotel industry also called for more financial support for the sector, including maintaining full coverage of partial unemployment benefits until June 30, or during the full or partial closure of establishments.
In a meeting with Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne on March 3, officials said many jobs had been saved thanks to the current measures. These include the government covering 100% of partial unemployment benefits for workers in establishments forced to close, due to the health pandemic.
They said the reduction in the amount of government coverage would lead to a wave of layoffs in the sector.
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