October 30th 2020 bars and restaurants were ordered to close and since then the only service has been takeaway. It has been a long time coming but after six months of closure for all French hospitality venues we finally have a date for a progressive reopening. As part of the deconfinement process (France is in a national lockdown until May 3rd) President Macron has outlined the plan for the relaunch of the economy.
From May 19th bars and restaurants will be allowed to open their terraces and once again customers will be allowed to sit down and enjoy their favourite eatery, albeit with a maximum of 6 people per table The other major change from May 19th will be the relaxation of the national curfew from 7pm to 9pm. We have had a curfew in place since November last year, originally at 6pm but more recently 7pm.
The second stage of the plan will take place on June 9th when customers will be allowed inside bars and restaurants, numbers will be limited and maximum of 6 people per table, and the curfew will be moved back to 11pm. Also from June 9th sports centres will reopen and a maximum of 5000 people could be allowed into sporting venues or concerts as long as they provide a “Pass Sanitaire”.
Foreign tourists will also be permitted into France, again with a Pass Sanitaire. The final stage of the plan is to lift the majority of restrictions from June 30th. No more curfew, no more limits on customers in restaurants and bars but still with distancing measures in place and full attendance at events. Unfortunately at this stage there is no plan to reopen nightclubs.
The reaction from the hospitality industry has been cautiously positive. Some hospitality leaders were hoping for an earlier date in May because there is a long weekend around the 14th May, but in reality the government are never going to encourage a massive reopening and risk a resurgence in infections so that everyone can benefit from a weekend trading, particularly when the situation in the hospitals is still extremely fragile. The other note of caution is that M. Macron has stated that the timetable is dependant on the state of the health crisis in the country and that dates could be changed or even adapted to a regional level.
There has, however, been a decision made concerning a health passport or “Pass Sanitaire”, which will not be required to go to bars, restaurants or cinemas etc. but will be needed to go to sporting events, concerts and for foreign travel. There is a plan for an EU health passport to enable us to travel within Europe. These things are always met with scepticism from certain groups but, speaking personally, after the events of the past year and the general loss of freedoms, I can see the benefits far outweigh the negative.
I still have concert tickets for events that have been postponed and will be happy to attend knowing that a protocol is in place whereby every other person in the venue has had to prove they are not Covid infected. The same should apply for wedding functions and other large gatherings where catering staff put themselves at risk by working, and then the following day perhaps attending to another function, with the possibility of not only being infected themselves but passing that infection to family and other customers.
A concert for 5000 people was recently held in Barcelona to test whether large events could be held safely. All 5000 were screened for Covid before the event and then followed for a month after – not one person has developed Covid as a result of that concert. Put the protocols in place, show your vaccination certificate or negative test and let’s get on with life!