Covid: French lockdown eased to help schools and travel

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image captionIn-person schooling has resumed for most pupils in France

French children have returned to classes in schools across the country and a domestic travel ban has been lifted, as the government eases its third Covid lockdown.

Citizens can now travel further than 10km (six miles) from home and can go anywhere in France. And they no longer have to carry a form giving a valid reason for travelling.

The third lockdown, lighter than the previous two, took effect in March.

A night-time curfew remains in force.

That curfew runs from 19:00 (17:00 GMT) to 06:00 nationwide and any breach incurs a fine of €135 (£117; $163).

Under the government's plan, the next phase of easing will start on 19 May, when the curfew will be pushed back to 21:00, outdoor service will be permitted at cafes and restaurants, and spectators will be allowed to return to sports venues.

Along with eating places, France is keeping non-essential businesses, shopping centres and leisure facilities shut.

France is currently registering around 25,000 new coronavirus infections a day and the number of intensive care patients with Covid-19 has dropped below 5,600.

The French channel BFMTV says the total for Covid patients in hospital was 28,818 on Sunday - a week ago it was over 30,000. France's total of Covid deaths is now above 104,800.

Caution in schools

While the youngest children have been able to attend school classes, secondary pupils have been kept at home, relying on remote learning.

Most secondary pupils were able to return to school on Monday. However, the lycée students - ages 15 to 18 - are subject to social distancing, meaning classes are only half-full.

Those aged 11 and 12 all went back to school on Monday. But in the 13 to 15 age group the numbers were restricted in the 15 French districts with the highest infection rates. Paris and areas around the capital are among the worst-hit by Covid.

media captionCovid symptoms: What are they and how long should I self-isolate for?

France has vaccinated 12.4% of its adult population against Covid, BFMTV reports.

Elsewhere in Europe:

  • Denmark's health authority has dropped the Johnson & Johnson vaccine - also known as the Janssen vaccine - from the country's vaccination programme, because of a possible link to rare blood clots. Last month Denmark also dropped the AstraZeneca vaccine for the same reason, yet both have been approved by the EU's medicines regulator
  • Germany has cancelled the Munich Oktoberfest - the world's most famous beer festival - for the second year running because of the infection risk
  • Bars and restaurants are reopening in Greece for the first time since a lockdown began in November. Customer numbers will be limited but the country's overnight curfew has been shortened by an hour to accommodate evening diners
  • On Saturday, Portugal ended its state of emergency, to allow the reopening of land borders with Spain and extended opening hours in shops and restaurants. However, the government has extended travel restrictions for countries with high levels of infections until 16 May
  • In the Netherlands the government has postponed a planned easing of the lockdown until 18 May at the earliest, as Covid infections have not dropped as much as had been hoped. Last week a night curfew was lifted and limited outdoor service resumed at eating places. But gyms, zoos and other leisure facilities remain shut for now.

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