France to start easing coronavirus lockdown rules in three stages

The French government is under pressure from shops and businesses to ease restrictions in time for the Christmas shopping season. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 November 2020

France to start easing coronavirus lockdown rules in three stages

  • Emmanuel Macron has said that France’s second national lockdown, which started on Oct. 30, would last at least four weeks

PARIS: France will start easing coronavirus lockdown rules in coming weeks, carrying out the process in three stages so as to avoid a new flareup in the pandemic, the government said on Sunday.
On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron will give a speech to the nation about the virus situation and may announce a partial relaxation of restrictions which have been in place since Oct. 30.
“Emmanuel Macron will give prospects over several weeks, especially on how we adjust our strategy. What is at stake is adapting lockdown rules as the health situation improves while avoiding a new flare up in the epidemic,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told Le Journal Du Dimanche.
“There will be three steps to (lockdown) easing in view of the health situation and of risks tied to some businesses: a first step around Dec. 1, then before the year-end holidays, and then from January 2021,” Attal added.
Macron has said that France’s second national lockdown, which started on Oct. 30, would last at least four weeks. Curbs include the closure of non-essential stores, restaurants and bars.
But with recent data showing France on track to rein in a surge in coronavirus infections, the government is under pressure from shops and businesses to ease restrictions in time for the Christmas shopping season, when many retailers make the bulk of their annual turnover.
“We had committed to allow them (shopkeepers) to reopen around Dec. 1 if the health situation improved, which seems to be the case,” Attal said.
Bars and restaurants however “will continue to experience restrictions,” he added.
On Thursday Health Minister Olivier Veran said France will win its battle against the coronavirus but it is a struggle which will take time, warning the lockdown was not yet over.
The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 17,881 on Saturday, lower than the 22,882 reported on Friday while the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 dropped for the fifth day in a row and was down at 31,365.


Scotland leader ‘never been more certain’ of independence

Updated 28 November 2020

Scotland leader ‘never been more certain’ of independence

  • The head of Scotland’s devolved government and the leader of the pro-independence SNP told supporters at the party’s virtual conference

GLASGOW: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Saturday said she had “never been more certain” of achieving independence, with Britain’s final departure from EU trading arrangements set to precede key Scottish elections in the months ahead.

The head of Scotland’s devolved government and the leader of the pro-independence SNP told supporters at the party’s virtual conference that the prospect of a break between Scotland and the rest of the UK has never been closer.

“Independence is in clear sight — and with unity of purpose, humility and hard work I have never been so certain that we will deliver it,” she said.

Sturgeon and the SNP have argued for a second referendum on Scottish independence since the party’s overwhelming victory among Scottish seats in Britain’s 2019 general election.

Now she hopes that a further resounding win in May elections to the Edinburgh parliament will hand her party a mandate for a second bid to quit the UK.

Opinion polls in recent months have shown that a majority of public opinion in Scotland now supports independence.

The country chose to remain part of the four-nation United Kingdom in a 2014 referendum on the issue.

But Scots later voted by a thumping majority in 2016 to remain in the European Union, a referendum the Leave side won by a narrow margin when taking the rest of Britain into account.

Since then, “we have won a landslide victory in a UK general election and support for independence has risen, it has become the sustained and majority view in public opinion this year,” said Sturgeon.

“Who should be taking the decisions that shape our futures? We know that it is the people who live here, wherever they come from, who can best harness Scotland’s immense human and natural resources.

“Let us reach out to all Scotland like never before,” she added.

Sturgeon urged her party to “demonstrate ... that Scotland is ready to take our place in the global family of independent nations,” saying it was “now a nation on the brink of making history.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly rebuffed calls from for a another referendum, saying that the 2014 vote settled the question for a generation.

Earlier this month, Scottish independence campaigners seized on comments by the prime minister in which he said the creation of a devolved parliament in Edinburgh had been “a disaster.”

In response Sturgeon said the only way to protect the parliament was “with independence.”

On Thursday, she said a referendum could be held “in the earlier part” of the next parliamentary session.

“The people of Scotland have the right to choose their future. Let’s now focus all our efforts on making sure we bring about that better country they and future generations deserve,” Sturgeon said on Saturday.