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France lifts Covid restrictions as case numbers ease


Agency Report

France on Wednesday loosened several of the restrictions imposed to curb the latest Covid surge, with authorities hoping a recent decline in daily cases will soon ease pressure on overburdened hospitals.

The move has divided experts after authorities reported record coronavirus infections just last month, with critics accusing the government of making a hasty bet on a return to normality.

But President Emmanuel Macron is betting that widespread vaccinations will curb the pandemic, with proof of inoculation now required for the health pass used to access everything from bars and restaurants to cinemas and long-distance public transport.

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The government says more than 90 percent of adults are vaccinated, and booster shots or proof of recovery from Covid will be required to retain the new health pass — a recent negative test result is no longer accepted.

From Wednesday, wearing face masks outdoors will no longer be mandatory, and audience capacity limits have been lifted for theatres, concerts, sporting matches and other events.

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Working from home is also no longer required, though it remains strongly recommended.

A second stage of easing is set for February 16, when nightclubs can reopen after being shut in December, and standing areas will again be allowed at concerts, sporting events and bars.

Eating and drinking will also be permitted in stadiums, cinemas and public transport from that date.

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Macron also suggested in a press interview published Tuesday that restrictions imposed for schools, which include face mask requirements, could be eased after the winter breaks scheduled for later this month.