By Cindi Cook
PARIS (AA) - French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a televised address to the nation Tuesday evening to announce a gradual de-confinement that will come in three stages, with a full lifting of the coronavirus lockdown to come on Dec. 15.
In his prototypical show of unanimity, Macron started off on a note of optimism and encouragement to French citizens for weathering the pandemic thus far.
"Our efforts, your efforts, have paid off. We have succeeded in slowing the circulation of the virus," he said.
He also thanked healthcare and front-line workers for their persistent efforts during the crisis.
"Here I want to salute the dedication of the caregivers who have been keen to cooperate, to innovate despite fatigue and weariness. I salute all the professionals, associations and volunteers who have also helped here. It was all together that we achieved these results. It is all together that we saved lives."
The head of state then announced the first stage of de-confinement, starting this Saturday, Nov. 28, with the re-opening of shops that had been considered non-essential, but only until 9 p.m.
Traveling within 20 kilometers (12 miles) from one's residence will now be allowed and for a total of three hours versus one hour previously, and extracurricular activities outdoors are again authorized.
Religious services can again resume, albeit with a 30-person limit.
Confinement will then be lifted on Dec. 15, but a curfew will be imposed from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. It will not apply on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 -- Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The president made it clear that the lockdown will only be lifted "if the health objectives are reached."
Lastly, restaurants, cafes, bars and sports halls will be able to re-open on Jan. 20 along with the full re-opening of high schools and then universities 15 days later, with Macron stressing again that coronavirus cases must be kept under 5,000 per day in order to do so.
The president also spoke on the financial aid promised to each sector to enable businesses to stay afloat.
In terms of vaccinations, he said the first rounds would come in late December and into January but will not be mandatory. He detailed that a second generation would also be available in the spring.
With a goal of saving lives “as much as possible," Macron said he was encouraged by the continued drop in numbers that measure the coronavirus’ impact. He noted that the average number of daily positive cases had dropped from 60,000 last week to below 20,000 this week.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health reported 9,155 cases, a rise of 4,703 over Monday's 4,452. Total infections now stand at 2,153,815.
Fatalities dipped slightly to 458 from 501 Monday. The official death toll stands at 50,237.
Hospitalizations were recorded at 12,174, down 724 from Monday, with 1,833 of those patients remaining in intensive care, down by 113 from the day before.
Worldwide, the death toll from COVID-19 stands at just over 1.4 million in 191 countries since first being detected in Wuhan, China late December last year. The number of infections stands at over 59.5 million, according to the latest figures from US-based Johns Hopkins University.
Throughout his speech, Macron called on people to remain steadfast and for everyone not to lose sight of the health concerns at hand.