PARIS — French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the gradual lifting of some coronavirus restrictions Thursday, even as the country continues to report some of the world’s highest daily caseloads.
On Tuesday, France registered almost a half-million new cases over 24 hours as the omicron variant is driving a surge in the number of infections. Last week, many teachers went on strike to protest what they say are unsafe working conditions.
While the French government was initially on high alert over the omicron variant, hospital pressure has been less severe than feared. With presidential elections set for April, President Emmanuel Macron’s government has in recent days appeared eager to announce a relaxation of rules.
The announcements Thursday may have fallen short of those hopes. Castex said outdoor mask-wearing mandates and a remote work mandate would be eased early next month. Nightclubs would reopen in the second half of February, he said.
But the recent mask mandates had been followed only halfheartedly in recent weeks, and they faced growing scrutiny in courts. Nightclubs had hoped to open as early as this month, and there were some indications that many companies ignored the remote work mandates.
In some ways, the French government will be tightening restrictions, despite its eagerness Thursday to present optimistic news. From Monday, unvaccinated people will be largely excluded from social life and unable to access bars, restaurants and many other spaces, pending final court approval. Until now, unvaccinated people have been granted access to those venues if they could show a recent negative coronavirus test.