France reopens slowly at moment, but despite the careful steps it realy feels like everything is going back to normal. The French government is closely monitoring the worrying situation in the UK and has imposed restrictions on travel.
France reopens in four careful steps. At the moment, we can book a table outside to enjoy a meal. From 9 June, indoor tables should also become a possibility. It all depends.
Meanwhile, the French vaccination programme is steaming ahead. Although France was definitely let down at an early stage by the failure of AstraZeneca to meet its obligations, in May 14.6 million doses of vaccine was administered. Pfizer is now the dominant vaccine used across France.
There are so many leftover AstraZeneca vaccine doses that the French government is in a bit of a problem. They would like to donate the vaccine to poorer countries (the UK used its hugely reduced foreign aid budget to pay for any vaccines sent abroad). But that may look as if no one here in France wanted it anyway, after just a handful of people experienced side effects.
In our own experience, booking appointments for vaccination has been typically smooth and without problems. But that was largely down to the hard work of one hero, data scientist Guillaume Rozier. He set up a COVID-19 app that was updated overnight. Yet he didn’t work directly for the French government. Even so, forms (hello! this is France) were updated overnight any time the President or Prime Minister spoke on national television.
Guillaume also launched an app just to book appointments to get vaccinated. In typical French fashion, it was based on your word of honour, with no need for confirmation by your local GP or medical evidence. You say that you are vulnerable? Here’s your jab appointment! Guillaume is rightly being given a national honour, after a popular campaign.
Our local vaccination centre is at the brand new Roman museum in Narbonne. No waiting, few questions and as soon as staff realised that we are married, we went straight through together. There is, of course, a 15-minute wait afterwards. But back in the UK one of our friends did collapse after getting the Oxford vaccine, so it’s all for the best.
As for bars and restaurants, we have already managed to have a couple of meals and drinks outside. Which is only fair, given that we have pretty much been stuck in Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois since mid-March last year. We are still very weary of people who wear their mask below their nose though, which is common in France.
On Saturday, we even attended a party. Nothing says that France reopens quite as much as getting an invite to the opening of a performance space and gallery owned by an apparently well-known French actor.
It was the first time since lockdown that we – rather reluctantly – mingled with lots of people in a small indoor space. But the event itself was great fun. This being France, there was a lot of food and drink. And everyone was chatting to everyone, even if your French wasn’t quite good enough.
So museums, markets, outdoor spaces at bars and restaurants are all open at the moment. Within the next few weeks, indoor tables will become available too. Although an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, I doubt that we will even need an indoor table.
The sad news is that we still are not able to welcome our friends from the UK. Due to the UK government’s disastrous decisions, the Indian variant has spread widely. The French government has taken decisive action by blocking any travel from the UK to France for non-EU citizens, unless they have a really compelling reason.