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Photo: Marc Piasecki via Getty

France will begin a three-stage plan to phase out its second COVID-19 lockdown of the year, President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.

Why it matters: Last week’s virus cases across the country amounted to one-third the number of cases seen in early November, the New York Times reports. Health experts have warned France not to repeat its mistakes from the spring as the nation moves to ease restrictions.

The big picture: Though France’s COVID-19 total death toll reached 50,000 on Tuesday, the number of people in hospitals and intensive care has steadily decreased recently, according to the Times.

  • The first stage out of lockdown will begin on Nov. 28, when nonessential businesses such as toy stores and bookshops will be allowed to reopen under strict health rules.
  • People will need permission slips to leave their homes, but the 1-kilometer travel restriction will extend to 20 kilometers. French residents will also be allowed to travel up to three hours away from home, increasing from the earlier one-hour limit.
  • Outdoor after-school activities will resume, while places of worship will reopen with no more than 30 people.
  • Bars and restaurants are likely to remain closed until mid-January.

The second stage will begin Dec. 15. As long as daily new cases are under 5,000 and no more than 3,000 patients are in intensive care, people will be able to move more freely, with theaters and museums allowed to reopen with restrictions.

  • The government will impose a curfew from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., however, and people are barred from assembling on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

The final stage will go into effect Jan. 20 if case numbers remain low.

  • All bars, restaurants and gyms will then reopen and university students will be able to return to in-person classes.
  • Companies forced to remain closed through Jan. 20 will receive financial support.

What he’s saying: “The logic of all these decisions is the same,” Macron said. “To limit as much as possible all the activities that multiply gatherings, that lead people to gather in enclosed places and to gradually allow the reopening of activities where we can protect ourselves.”

Context: France’s vaccination campaign is set to launch as soon as late December or early January, according to Macron. Elderly people, hospitals, retirement homes and doctors will be given priority.

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