A slightly more restrained and less combative President Emmanuel Macron outlined a three-stage plan for the end of France’s second lockdown in a TV address on Tuesday evening. Until his appearance it was not certain that the changes would be implemented so soon, with Tuesday December 1 having been the accepted target date.

He had last taken to the TV screens on October 28, when – in the face of fast-increasing hospitalisations – he announced the second lockdown.

In some respects the first loosening of the rules, from the morning of Saturday, November 28, is more wide-ranging than expected. However, bars and restaurants will stay closed. So-called non-essential shops and services will reopen, always with the observance of strict sanitary measures.

A curfew will stay in place, starting one hour later, at 21:00 and lasting one hour longer, until 07:00. The need to fill in and carry an “attestation” will stay in place, but it will be possible to be out of the house for up to three hours in place of the present 60 minutes.

It will also be possible to travel further away from home, up to 20 kilometres.

A second relaxation of lockdown will happen on December 15, when cinemas and theatres will be opened, but still with the 21:00 to 07:00 curfew in place. There will no longer be a requirement to carry an “attestation.”

On the nights of December 24 and 31 the nightly curfew will be lifted.

If the number of new coronavirus cases stays below 5,000 per day, on January 20 the bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen, a moment very much awaited by French citizens.

The president also announced more financial support for the hospitality sector, saying that bars and restaurants will be eligible to receive 20 percent of their turnover during the same period last year, up to a maximum of 10,000 euros per month. Further details of this scheme will follow.

President Macron repeatedly emphasised that each stage of relaxation depended on new cases remaining below 5,000 a day and ICU beds having an occupation level of between 2,500 and 3,000 a day as a maximum.

Senior schools will reopen on January 20 and universities two weeks later.