'Red zone' Paris under watch, as France prepares to lift lockdown
By Michel Rose and Geert De Clercq PARIS (Reuters) - Parisians must show forms to use rush-hour public transport and still avoid parks, though they will be able to shop at Champs-Elysee boutiques again, under measures to start lifting France's coronavirus lockdown from Monday. Though France is one of the worst-affected nations with 25,987 deaths, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told a news conference that enough progress had been made in curbing COVID-19 and supporting hospitals to begin easing restrictions.
By Michel Rose and Geert De Clercq
PARIS (Reuters) - Parisians must show forms to use rush-hour public transport and still avoid parks, though they will be able to shop at Champs-Elysee boutiques again, under measures to start lifting France's coronavirus lockdown from Monday.
Though France is one of the worst-affected nations with 25,987 deaths, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told a news conference that enough progress had been made in curbing COVID-19 and supporting hospitals to begin easing restrictions.
Some regions including the Paris area would, however, remain "red zones" with a more cautious end to the nearly two-month national shutdown.
"The country is cut in two, with the virus circulating more quickly in some regions, notably in the Paris region," Philippe said. "In the Paris region, the infection rate is falling slowly, but it remains very high, higher than we expected. That is why in these territories we will need to be extra vigilant."
Administrative regions around Calais, Strasbourg and Dijon will also remain "red zones", where some restrictions will stay - such as keeping parks, gardens and secondary schools shut.
Beaches, water sports centres and lakes will remain closed for now but regional prefectures can allow their opening on request by the local mayor, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said.
In Paris, commuters will need permissions from their employers to use the metro or buses at peak hours.
However, more than half of shops on the famed Champs-Elysees avenue, linking the Arc de Triomphe to the Paris Obelisk, can reopen, the avenue's business committee said.
In other parts of France, cafes and restaurants may open from early June if the infection rate remains low.
Next week, about 1 million children and 130,000 teachers will return to school, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said.
The elderly and vulnerable were advised to continue observing the same distancing as during the lockdown in coming months, though the prime minister said that would not be compulsory and would rely on common sense.
"The distinction between green and red might tend to widen from June," Philippe said. "Whether in a red or green area, we can't get smart with the virus."
People will no longer need to carry a form to leave home, but papers will be needed for trips exceeding a radius of 100 km (62 miles), which will be only allowed for professional reasons, funerals or caring for the sick.
Castaner said controls would be enforced at train stations and major roads with fines of 135 euros ($146) for rulebreakers.
Travel restrictions with countries from Europe's Schengen area will remain in place until at least June 15, while restrictions for travellers from outside Europe would be lifted "when the health situation allows it."
Quarantine and isolation will be possible for all travellers into France once a new law is passed. However, these would not apply to EU countries and Britain - for now.
"At this stage, considering the way the epidemic has evolved in Europe and how aligned public health measures are between European countries, these measures will not apply within the European area," Castaner said.
Some additional border crossings with other EU countries will be allowed, notably for the care or schooling of children, as well as for residents from the European area with a compelling economic reason, notably seasonal agricultural workers.
(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Gareth Jones, Frances Kerry and Andrew Cawthorne)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.