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New Caledonia: The French island where lockdown is already over

The French overseas territory of New Caldeonia on April 22, 2020.
The French overseas territory of New Caldeonia on April 22, 2020. © AFP / FRANCE 24

France is not due to begin lifting its Covid-19 lockdown until May 11, but in one small part of the country life is already returning to normal. The French territory of New Caledonia, a small archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, began lifting restrictions on Monday, giving the rest of France a glimpse of what life after lockdown might be like.

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"The first day we opened at 6am, all the regulars came back,” café manager Betty Levanque, told AFP.

“The first lunchtime, everyone was really excited but we couldn't kiss each other. So that's hard. We didn't kiss, we didn't touch, we just looked at each other and said: 'Ah! We're happy!'"

"It's good to be able to go out freely without a certificate,” added local resident Leslie Garrier, as she ate with her family at a restaurant.

“And it's good to take the kids out a bit further than around the house. They were really happy to be able to come to the restaurant, they've been waiting for this for a long time, so we're taking advantage of it before they go back to school."

The territory of around 270,000 people has been little affected by the pandemic, with just 18 recorded cases and no deaths.

But although the lockdown may have ended, precautions remain in place, including reduced class sizes in schools, and strict hygiene and social distancing rules in bars, shops and restaurants.

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