French way of life to resume with restaurants reopening

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People prepare the terrace of their restaurant in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, Thursday, May 28, 2020. France is reopening its restaurants, bars and cafes starting next week as the country eases most restrictions amid the coronavirus crisis. Edouard Philippe defended the gradual lifting of lockdown up to now, saying the strategy was meant to avoid provoking a second wave. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

PARIS – The French way of life is set to largely resume next week, with most virus-related restrictions easing as the country prepares for the summer holiday season amid the pandemic.

In a speech on Thursday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe promised that “freedom will, at last, again become the rule.”

France is one of the world’s hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus and was under strict lockdown for two months before starting to ease restrictions on May 11. Authorities have reported at least 28,596 COVID-19-related deaths.

From June 2 restaurants and cafes will reopen, together with monuments and museums, concert halls and theaters, beaches, campsites, gyms and public swimming pools.

There's a notable exception for the Paris region, the country's worst-affected by the virus, where many facilities will have to wait until June 22 to reopen.

Philippe said the French are yearning for cafes and restaurants to reopen, noting that these “are part of our art of living.”

Diners will be no more than 10 to a table, with at least 1 meter (3 feet) separating each group. Clients will have to wear masks when they move around the restaurant and staff will have to wear them all the time.

In the Paris region, only outdoor seating will be allowed.