France will make face masks compulsory on public transport and in secondary schools when it starts easing its coronavirus lockdown on 11 May, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said.

Schools will reopen gradually, starting with kindergartens and primary schools.

Pupils aged 11-15 will be expected to wear face masks.

It comes as hard-hit Spain also outlined its lockdown exit plan, aiming for what its prime minister called “a new normality” by the end of June.

How will France reopen?

Non-essential shops and markets will open their doors again from 11 May, but not bars and restaurants.

Stores will have the right to ask shoppers to wear masks, and should ensure they remain a metre (3ft) apart, the prime minister said.

In a relief to many, the French will be able to go outside again without a certificate confirming their intentions, and public gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed. Crèches will also reopen – but with a maximum of 10 children in each group.

France has suffered one of the highest Covid-19 death rates in Europe, along with the UK, Italy and Spain.

On Tuesday the number of people who have died with the virus rose by 367 to 23,660, the country’s health ministry said. Some 129,859 people have been infected.

Hospital admissions and the number of patients in intensive care have been falling, however, giving cause for cautious optimism.

Addressing parliament, Mr Philippe said the lockdown had saved an estimated 62,000 lives in France in a month, but that it was time to ease measures to avoid an economic collapse.

“We will have to learn to live with the virus,” he said, until a vaccine or effective treatment is available.

Will the lockdown definitely be lifted?

Mr Philippe stressed that France must take strict precautions to avoid a second wave of coronavirus infections.

“The risk of a second wave, which would strike a weakened hospital fabric, which would impose a ‘re-confinement’, which would ruin the efforts and sacrifices made during these eight weeks, is a serious risk,” he said.

The lockdown will not be eased on 11 May if new cases don’t stay below 3,000 a day, he added.

France has seen about 2,162 new cases a day on average over the past two weeks.

The government has set a target to carry out at least 700,000 coronavirus tests per week from 11 May, the prime minister said, and will cover the cost of testing.

“Once a person has tested positive, we will begin to identify and test all those, symptomatic or not, who have had close contact with them. All these contact cases will be tested and will be asked to isolate themselves,” he said.

Mr Philippe said that where possible, people should keep working from home beyond 11 May.


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