France Reopens Restoration And Culture After Almost Seven Months Of Closure: "Paris Regains Its Charm"

The question “what are you going to do this Wednesday” has probably been the most repeated these days while waiting for the reopening in France of terraces, museums, cinemas and monuments after almost seven months closed. The country regains its “French way of life” on Wednesday, the term with which President Emmanuel Macron defined this de-escalation phase. Non-essential shops are also reopening and, as of this Wednesday, the day will be longer: the curfew goes from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The Brasserie L’Horizon, right in front of the central Saint Placide metro stop, has opened its doors at six in the morning, although the owners of this restaurant have been preparing for this day for weeks. “We have installed more tables and we have ensured that the sanitary measures are respected”, explains Xavier, one of the people in charge of the premises. Cafes, bars and restaurants with more than eight tables on the terrace, such as L’Horizon, can only occupy 50% of your space. At the tables, hydroalcoholic gel, QR codes to consult the menu and a limit of six people per group. In contrast, smaller establishments are allowed to occupy all the tables as long as they have installed some sort of separation mechanism between them.

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“Time does not accompany us, but it does not worry us,” says Xavier, pointing to the awning that covers the tables and insisting on the desire that his clients have to return to normality. Throughout the morning of this Wednesday it has rained intermittently in Paris, a meteorology that will last throughout the week. “The rain is not going to slow us down,” explain three friends who have stayed for a coffee, a moment they have been craving for months. “After such a long time it is a bit strange, we have the feeling that we are doing something illegal, but it is very nice.” For Friday they have already reserved a table for dinner at another restaurant in the city.

“I’m happy to see people on the terraces and in the street,” explains Hanno, a German living in the city, while walking his dog. “Today Paris recovers its charm”. With his wife, they have planned several cultural visits for the remainder of the week. “Tomorrow the Monet Foundation will play in Giverny, an hour’s drive from Paris, and on Friday we will return to the Louvre,” he details. Asked about the possibility of outbreaks in the coming weeks, Hanno remains optimistic: “You have to take the pandemic seriously, of course, but the rate of vaccination increases and you have to progressively return to normal.” This Tuesday, the number of hospitalizations reached its lowest levels since October, with just over 22,000 patients with coronavirus in hospitals across the country.

The cultural sector was also looking forward to the arrival of this day after months of demanding a reopening. Like the restoration, they have also been adapting to sanitary measures for weeks. Museums must guarantee a space of eight square meters per visitor, while cinemas and theaters limit their capacity to 35% of spectators, two empty seats between each group and eating will not be allowed. The movie theaters, in addition, find themselves with an oversaturation of films to release. The National Center for Film and Animated Image (CNC) estimates that there are more than 400 feature films to be broadcast and, in order not to saturate the broadcast flow, theaters plan to release between 40 and 50 films per week, four times more than usual.

The next phase of de-escalation will take place on June 9, when restaurants will be able to serve food indoors, the capacity limit in cinemas and museums will be extended and the curfew will be declared at 11 pm. The last stage, on June 30, plans to eliminate the curfew and introduce a health passport to, for example, go to concerts, festivals abroad or to the cinema.

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