Towards a gradual exit from confinement in France before Christmas

Faced with a slight improvement on the front of the COVID-19 epidemic, the French government is meeting on Wednesday to prepare for the release of the second confinement by Christmas, while warning that the relaxation will be gradual.

• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

A new National Defense and Security Council (CDSN) is planned around President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex, before a Council of Ministers.

Main question: how to loosen the grip without relaunching the circulation of the virus and being forced into a third confinement?

Even if the bar of two million cases since March has been exceeded, “the epidemic is slowing down”, indicated Tuesday evening the Director General of Health, Jérôme Salomon, while noting that “hospital pressure remains very strong”, with 33,170 hospitalized patients.

Among these patients, more than 4,800 were in intensive care on Tuesday and the daily rate of death in hospital is not weakening either, with 437 new deaths recorded in 24 hours.

Emmanuel Macron should speak in the middle of next week to announce the stages of a “progressive deconfinement”, according to a source close to the executive. The idea is to “avoid the stop and go”, explained Mr. Castex.

Sports halls should reopen to minors from December 1, as are places of worship, with increased health restrictions.

The question of reopening so-called “non-essential” businesses, in particular bookstores or toy stores, has not yet been decided. Restricted to online sales and by appointment, they are calling for a recovery from November 27, the day of the “Black Friday” sales.

The situation is even more difficult for bars and restaurants. For them, the government spokesman, Gabriel Attal, only promised “prospects at the beginning of December”, and they fear to remain closed until 2021. A disaster for these establishments but also for their sectors of supply like that of poultry.

Other questions: should we maintain the limit of one hour and one kilometer for walks? And at Christmas, will trips to meet up with family be allowed? The government has yet to decide, even if the SNCF, the national rail operator, says it is already “ready” for the school holidays.

Beyond deconfinement, the government will have to respond to the challenge of improving the strategy for screening and isolating infected people, thanks to the deployment of antigenic tests, after the failure of the triptych “test, trace, isolate”. The executive will also have to set up a massive vaccination campaign.

In the meantime, the mental health of the French worries the authorities. According to Public Health France, depressive states have increased with double the number of people affected at the beginning of November compared to the end of September (21% against 10%) and they particularly concern impoverished people, young people and the inactive.

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