PARIS (Reuters) – France will try to avoid setting different rules for older people and other forms of discrimination once the government starts easing its coronavirus confinement measures, the French President’s office said.
France’s lockdown to combat the outbreak, which like in Spain, Italy and many other European countries includes restrictions on store openings and people’s movements, will remain in place until at least May 11, President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this week.
After that, schools and shops are set to reopen, though it is still unclear at what speed France will allow some businesses like hotels or cafes to restart, and whether it plans to lift home confinement recommendations for everyone at the same time.
Macron’s latest announcements have sparked a backlash in recent days, after he said on Monday that older people, who are considered more vulnerable to the deadly virus, would be asked to stay at home for longer.
Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council advising the government on the epidemic, also fuelled the debate after he proposed that confinement should continue for people aged 65 to 70 and above.
“The President has followed the growing debate about the situation for elderly citizens after May 11,” the Elysee palace said in comments sent to Reuters on Saturday.
“He does not want there to be any discrimination among citizens after May 11 in the context of a gradual easing of confinement measures, and will appeal to people’s individual responsibility.”
The government is still likely to recommend that some people should stay at home for their own protection, however.
“We will ask the most vulnerable people, older people, severely disabled people, and those who suffer from chronic illnesses, to remain in confinement even after May 11, at least in a first instance,” Macron said in his televised address on April 13. “I know it’s a major constraint … But we’ll have to try to abide by this to protect you, it’s in your interest.”
France’s registered death toll from coronavirus infections neared 19,000 on Friday, but most data provided further indications that the spread of the disease was slowing after the one-month-old national lockdown.
(Reporting by Michel Rose, Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Toby Chopra and Ros Russell)