France eases mask rules and announces end to nightly virus curfew

France has eased several Covid-19 restrictions, with authorities saying it is no longer always mandatory to wear masks outside and halting an eight-month nightly curfew this weekend.

The announcement by French prime minister Jean Castex comes as France is registering about 3,900 new virus cases a day, down from 35,000 a day in the March/April peak.

Mr Castex welcomed “very good news” and said the curfew would be lifted on Sunday, 10 days earlier than expected.

A woman dances by a cafe terrace in Lille, northern France (Michel Spingler/AP)

Wearing a mask would still remain mandatory outdoors in crowded places like street markets and stadiums, he said. And people were required to wear a mask indoors in public spaces, including at work — with the exception of restaurants and bars.

“We have not known such a low level of virus spreading since last August,” Mr Castex said, adding that the situation was improving in all of France’s regions.

“Those positive evolutions are due to the mobilisation of the French and to the vaccination campaign,” he said.

But speaking in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron called on people to remain cautious.

“We can only welcome the fact that we have had the right strategy … We see where we are and each time we are adapting things,” Mr Macron said.

“But with great caution, nothing is guaranteed … So I’m inviting all our fellow citizens to continue to get the vaccine.”

A man takes a photo of the sunset in Paris, as the eight-month nightly curfew draws to a close (Thibault Camus/AP)

More than 58% of France’s adult population had received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose.

On Tuesday, the European Union nation opened its vaccination programmes to those aged 12 to 18 as part of a push to protect residents as restrictions are gradually lifted.

The French have been living under night-time curfews since mid-October.

When the numbers of infections were at their highest level, from mid-January to mid-May, the curfew was from 6pm to 6am, with shops closed and exceptions only for workers and quick walks for pets. It had been gradually pushed back to start at 11pm.

Terraces at restaurants and cafes, theatres, cinemas and museums all reopened on May 19.

And last week, France reopened indoor spaces in restaurants and cafes as well as gyms and swimming pools.

Major sporting and cultural events can host a maximum of 5,000 people, with all attending need to show a vaccination certificate or a negative test within the last 48 hours.

The nation has reported 110,563 confirmed virus deaths, one of the highest tolls in Europe.


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