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France says COVID-19 rates still too high to re-open cultural venues - Metro US

France says COVID-19 rates still too high to re-open cultural venues

French Prime Minister Jean Castex speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) -France will not reopen museums, cinemas and theatres next week as planned because COVID-19 infection rates are not falling as fast as the government had hoped, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday.

France’s government had announced that a lockdown imposed at the end of October to get to grips with a second coronavirus wave would be partially lifted by Dec. 15, including the re-opening of cultural venues.

But that was contingent on the number of new cases of infection falling to around 5,000 a day. France is on target to miss that target.

“We are not yet at the end of this second wave, and we will not reach the objectives we had set for Dec. 15,” Castex told a news conference.

“We cannot let down our guard. We have to stay focussed, and find our way through the next few weeks with lots of vigilance,” he said.

Though transmission rates are several times lower than they were at the peak of the second wave, France is currently recording an average of 11,368 new cases each day, according to Reuters data.

Theatres, cinemas and museums are now scheduled to re-open at the beginning of January, Castex said.

The decision drew angry reactions from the cultural world.

“We are tired of not being given more consideration. Once more culture is being left on the side of the road,” Phillipe Lellouche, a French actor and director, told BFM TV

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot did not even attend the news conference, he noted.

SAVING CHRISTMAS

France will stick to its previously announced plan to end a stay-at-home order on Dec. 15 and replace it with a nightly curfew, Castex said.

But in a departure from the plan, the curfew will run from 8 p.m. each night – an hour earlier than planned – and will not be waived for New Year’s Eve.

“The best way to welcome 2021 is to take care of each other,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

The curfew will, though, be waived for Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, because “Christmas has a special place in our lives and traditions,” Castex said.

(Reporting by Dominique VidalonWriting by Christian LoweEditing by Frances Kerry and Steve Orlofsky)

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