France extends virus lockdown to May 11
President Emmanuel Macron on Monday extended France's strict lockdown to combat the coronavirus until May 11, with a progressive relaxation of the measures planned after that if the outbreak has slowed.
The epidemic was "beginning to steady... (and) hope is returning", Macron said in an address to the nation.
"The strict confinement must continue until Monday, May 11."
But he also warned that easing the lockdown then "would only be possible if we continue to be good citizens, responsible and respect the rules, and if the spread of the virus has indeed continued to slow," he said.
Schools would start to reopen from May 11 but restaurants and cafes would remain shut. Borders with non-European countries would remain closed until further notice, Macron added.
Macron's comments came after a gradual improvement in the figures from France, with daily death tolls off their peak of a week ago and the number of people in intensive care now falling.
"May 11 will be the start of a new phase. It will be progressive and the rules can be adapted according to our results," he said.
He admitted that there had been shortcomings "as in all the countries of the world" and that France had not been sufficiently prepared.
"We lacked gowns, gloves, gel and we were not able to hand out as many masks as we would have liked," he said.
Macron said that the state would be able to let every person in France obtain masks from May 11. Also from May 11, France would be able to test every person who shows symptoms.
He indicated that a vaccine would be the only solution for ending the pandemic, adding there was no evidence of so-called herd immunity among people in France for now.
"According to the initial data... a small minority of people in France have contracted COVID-19," he said.