France: Bars and restaurants may not open before January 15

Hospitality sites may not be permitted to reopen until next year, as ‘non-essential’ shops and religious sites wait to find out if they will be able to reopen from December 1

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Bars, cafes and restaurants may not reopen in France until January 15, it has been suggested, with the prime minister set to announce a support plan next week, as shops and religious sites also await further details.

This date has not yet been confirmed by the government but it has been suggested by sources close to news service FranceInfo.

Media group France Télévisions contacted Matignon - the prime minister’s office - and it confirmed that “it would be difficult to open bars and restaurants before the Christmas holidays” but would not confirm or deny a set date or any more details at this stage.

Prime Minister Jean Castex is set to make an announcement on the issue next week, including an expected extra support package for the hospitality industry, which was already hit hard by the first lockdown.

The industry has already begun a fightback against what it deems its unfair closure.

Major hospitality union l'Union des métiers des industries de l'hôtellerie (UMIH) intends to take the government to court over its decision to reclose establishments due to the second lockdown.

‘Non-essential’ shops to reopen?

Debate is also continuing around whether shops selling “non-essential” items will be allowed to reopen before the end of the month.

Industry federations have called for shops to reopen from Friday November 27 - known as “Black Friday”, a day on which many places offer major discounts ahead of Christmas - or at the very least, Saturday November 28.

Again, Matignon is set to address this next week.

Read more: Shops call for cancellation of Black Friday in France

Minister for Industry Agnès Pannier-Runacher has today said: “We are working on a protocol that will allow [shop] reopening as soon as the health conditions are good enough. We are on the starting blocks.”

She explained that this “protocol” will look at the issues such as the number of people allowed in a shop at one time.

Ms Pannier-Runacher said: “We hope to have it decided by the end of the work. Again, this virus is spreading and is killing someone every four minutes. We will not play with fire. As politicians, we have a responsibility.

“We are making decisions that are not simple. Stopping people from working is counter-intuitive. But the more we respect confinement, the more we will be able to restart the economy. Let’s do everything we can to reopen safely.”

Religious ceremonies

The government is also set to give an update on the situation for religious buildings and ceremonies. These are not expected to be permitted until at least December 1.

Under the current rules, religious buildings are able to stay open, but ceremonies and events are banned, except funerals attended by 30 people or fewer.

Ceremonies are likely to be allowed from December 1 if the health situation allows, and only if a strict health protocol is followed, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) has said.

Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the bishop association la Conférence des évêques de France told AFP: “The prime minister has said that he was ready to relax the current rules from December 1, on condition that a strict health protocol is followed and the health situation improves.”

This new “protocol” is expected to be outlined by the interior minister “within 8-10 days”, religious group La Fédération protestante de France said.

These rules are to be decided in concert with religious groups, and are set to be submitted to the prime minister next week, Matignon said.

François Clavairoly, president of la Fédération protestante de France said: “The interior minister will give us more details on the procedures for restarting services [such as]: the number of square metres needed around a worshipper, and the number of people allowed, but also whether we will be able to hold other activities, such as church meetings, parish councils, or lessons.”

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