France said Sunday (3 May) that it would not quarantine anyone arriving from the EU, the Schengen area or Britain due to the coronavirus, as it prepares to start easing confinement measures after two months of lockdown.
On Saturday, the government had said it would extend the state of emergency to contain the crisis until at least 24 July, and anyone entering France would have to remain in isolation for two weeks.
But the quarantine rules would not apply to “anyone arriving from the European Union, the Schengen zone or Britain, regardless of their nationality”, the presidency said on Sunday.
And for French and EU citizens arriving in France from other regions outside the EU, the Schengen area and Britain, “the rules will be announced in the coming days”, the presidency said.
Nevertheless, the tougher border controls introduced by France in mid-March to limit coronavirus contagion, particularly at the border with Germany, will continue, the interior ministry told AFP.
“The travel restrictions currently in place at our borders will continue to apply,” the ministry said. “Nothing has changed.”
The number of new deaths from COVID-19 in France has been declining in recent days, with 135 fatalities reported over the past 24 hours on Sunday.
The national health service said the increase brought France’s total death toll to 24,895, the world’s fifth highest figure after the United States, Italy, Britain and Spain.
The last time the number of daily reported deaths was below 135 was on 22 March, when it represented only those reported by hospitals.
The current figure also includes deaths reported by elderly care homes and other medicalised care facilities.
France plans to start lifting the coronavirus lockdown from 11 May, when children are to return to school in stages, some businesses will reopen and people will be able to travel within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of their homes without a signed justification for their movement.
But Health Minister Olivier Veran warned Sunday that this would depend on further declines in COVID-19 infections, especially in hard-hit areas like the Paris region and northeast France.
The government has said the number of new coronavirus cases must stabilise at fewer than 3,000 per day as it expands testing, otherwise doctors and nurses could face another wave of patients that have tested hospitals since March.
“If the number of new cases proves too high, we’ll have to reconsider the date for lifting the lockdown, and decide according to the situation in each department,” Veran told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
He also cautioned against planning summer holidays for now, saying “it’s unlikely that this virus is going to go on vacation”.
Officials are scrambling to ramp up testing capacities to 700,000 people each week by May 11, which health experts say is essential for containing the outbreak.