French store openings in December not yet secure

Some French stores may reopen in December during the holidays, but the outlook is far from certain despite signs that the partial coronavirus lock is working, Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said on Monday.

“To allow some companies to reopen on December 1 would be perfect,” she told France Info radio.

“But we are not there yet, and we will do everything necessary to slow down the spread of the virus,” she said.

A number of companies that are considered insignificant, from booksellers and toy stores to clothing retailers, have demanded permission to welcome customers again and say that sufficient precautionary measures were in place to limit the risk of infection.

Many also urge to reopen as soon as November 27, to take advantage of the “Black Friday” sales rose that they say they will otherwise only serve big online competitors like Amazon.

An open letter signed by about 120 lawmakers, union leaders, NGOs and entrepreneurs on Monday called for a special tax on Amazon and other “profits from the crisis.”

Asked about Black Friday openings, Pannier-Runacher said “we are still in talks about this, so I do not intend to make any indications or false promises”.

Her comments came when France on Sunday reported a further decline in new Covid-19 cases and the lowest number of new admissions to intensive care units – 270 – in three weeks.

“Thanks to the lock, as in March last year, virus transmissions are reduced,” said Health Minister Olivier Veran in an interview with regional French newspapers published Monday.

“We’re getting this epidemic back, that’s good news,” he said. “But we have not yet beaten this virus … it is clearly too early to claim victory and relax our efforts.”

There are currently 4,880 coronavirus patients in intensive care (IC), which puts great effort into French hospitals, which had a total of 5,000 intensive care beds across the country before the crisis.

The government has climbed to make hundreds more beds available and says it now has capacity for 7,700 IC patients, a figure it could raise to more than 10,000 if needed.

France has reported 44,548 coronavirus deaths since the outbreak began earlier this year.

(AFP)