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France to limit international travel this summer, Macron says

French President Emmanuel Macron at a school in Poissy, near Paris, on May 5, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron at a school in Poissy, near Paris, on May 5, 2020. © Ian Langsdon/Pool/AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday it was unlikely that French people will be able to take long-distance trips this summer and that even trips within Europe may have to be limited to reduce the risk of a resurgence of the coronavirus.

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"It is too soon to say whether we can take holidays. What I can say is that we will limit major international travel, even during the summer holidays. We will stay amoung Europeans and, depending on how the epidemic evolves, we might have to reduce that a little more. We will know early June," Macron told reporters during a visit to a school outside Paris.

France is set to end its lockdown on May 11, when people will be allowed to move up to 100 kilometres (60 miles) around their residence without a justification form. Movement beyond 100 kms will still need a justification form.

Caution in the green zone

Macron called for caution and “pragmatism” regarding travel outside the 100-kilometre zone to avoid accelerating the spread of the virus into low infection zones.

France released a colour-coded map last week, dividing the country into zones ranging from red, for high infection areas, to green for low infection zones. The map is designed to serve as a reference for lockdown easing measures.

In an interview with French TV stations TF1 and France 2, Macron called on green zone residents to also exercise caution by maintaining social distancing. "Let’s be very clear: We know how the virus works and for whom it is very dangerous," the French president said. “For someone who is fragile and old, even the green zone is very dangerous."

Macron cautioned against residents in green zones dropping their guard and believing “everything goes back to normal” after May 11 and urged “the whole country” to act with “prudence” and a “spirit of responsibility”.

‘Economic life must resume’

The French government’s lockdown easing measures have drawn fire from critics who say they are confusing and the country is not ready to cope with the strict social distancing and other protective measures that will be required after May 11 to avoid a flare-up of the epidemic.

On Sunday, more than 300 mayors from the greater Paris region, including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, penned an open letter to Macron urging him to delay school returns, saying they need more time for the vast reorganisation of classrooms and daily routines.

Education experts fear prolonged lockdown would heighten student inequality

But the government has defended its time table with French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe on Monday asserting that, "economic life must resume imperatively and quickly".

Macron on Tuesday echoed the need for the easing measures. "I perfectly understand the reluctance of teachers, things will happen calmly, with dialogue, because no one knows how long we'll have to live with the virus. We can't say for months and months -- the country isn't living anymore,” he said.

'We'll have to live with the virus,' says Macron

“We had to decide about this unprecedented lockdown, and now we have to start a new phase, where we must continue handling the epidemic, while still retaining the life of a free nation."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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