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France extends health emergency until July 24 as Europe mulls lifting lockdown restrictions

France extends health emergency until July 24 as Europe mulls lifting lockdown restrictions
France’s minister of health has announced an extension of the public health state of emergency until July 24. The country was placed under emergency on March 24 due the Covid-19 outbreak.

The move was announced by Olivier Veran on Saturday, following an emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers.

While the state of health emergency was expected to be lifted on May 23, doing so was deemed to be “premature” and carrying risk of the “epidemic resurgence,” the draft bill reads as quoted by local media.

The government’s decision to extend the emergency is set be submitted to the country’s legislature for final approval next week.

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It was not immediately clear whether the emergency extension will affect the plans to begin gradually lifting the restrictions starting from May 11. The country is expected to reopen schools and businesses, easing the weeks-long lockdown. Still, life "wouldn’t be back to normal” at once, France's President Emmanuel Macron has warned. Reopening of the country will be effected in “several phases” and a “recovery period” will be set out.

Although the European coronavirus tally has now surpassed the 1.5 million mark, countries across the continent are starting to ease their lockdowns. Italy is expected to lift some of its restrictions on May 4, allowing people to exercise outdoors as well as to visit relatives living nearby. Retailers and cultural sites are expected to be allowed to reopen in mid-May, with bars and restaurants to follow on June 1.

Spain eased its lockdown as well, allowing adult citizens to exercise outdoors starting from Saturday. The restrictive measures for minors were partially lifted a week ago.

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Playgrounds began reopening across Germany on Friday, while schools are expected to be partially back in action next week. Social distancing measures will remain in place until at least May 10, however. In Norway and Denmark, some schools and nurseries have already reopened.

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