France will relax work-from-home laws beginning in early February and enable nightclubs to reopen two weeks later as the country’s overall COVID-19 situation improves, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday.
On Feb. 2, the number of persons permitted inside sports and entertainment facilities will be lowered, and masks will no longer be necessary outside.
People will also be able to consume popcorn – or other food – at movies starting on February 16. COVID procedures in schools, which include requiring students to wear masks in class, may be modified after the winter breaks.
However a vaccine pass, which requires a certificate of vaccination to enter public venues like restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains, will enter into force as planned, Castex said, saying it would be enforced from Jan. 24.
The vaccine pass could be dropped later if the risk to public health from the pandemic eased significantly, he told a news conference. Health Minister Olivier Veran said that would depend on how much pressure hospitals are under.
“The wave linked to the Delta variant is clearly receding everywhere,” Castex said. At the same time, the wave caused by the newer Omicron variant “is starting to stall in the regions where this variant first hit at the end of December”.
France reported over 425,000 coronavirus infections on Thursday. The number of COVID patients in intensive care has stabilized, leaving the government some room for manoeuvre.
And the government’s science advisory body said the fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic would remain at a high, but manageable, level of infections until mid-March.
The vaccine pass, approved by parliament on Sunday, still needs the green light of the Constitutional Court, which will make its views known on the matter on Friday. The pass has re-energized anti-vaccine street protests.
Up until now, a negative COVID test was also accepted to get access to public venues. That will no longer be the case.
Castex also encouraged parents to vaccinate children aged 5-11, and said children aged 12-17 would now be able to get a vaccine booster.