PARIS (Reuters) - France will start easing coronavirus lockdown rules in coming weeks, carrying out the process in three stages so as to avoid a new flareup in the pandemic, the government said on Sunday.
On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron will give a speech to the nation about the virus situation and may announce a partial relaxation of restrictions which have been in place since Oct. 30.
"Emmanuel Macron will give prospects over several weeks, especially on how we adjust our strategy. What is at stake is adapting lockdown rules as the health situation improves while avoiding a new flare up in the epidemic," government spokesman Gabriel Attal told Le Journal Du Dimanche.
"There will be three steps to (lockdown) easing in view of the health situation and of risks tied to some businesses: a first step around Dec. 1, then before the year-end holidays, and then from January 2021," Attal added.
Macron has said that France's second national lockdown, which started on Oct. 30, would last at least four weeks. Curbs include the closure of non-essential stores, restaurants and bars.
But with recent data showing France on track to rein in a surge in coronavirus infections, the government is under pressure from shops and businesses to ease restrictions in time for the Christmas shopping season, when many retailers make the bulk of their annual turnover.
"We had committed to allow them (shopkeepers) to reopen around Dec. 1 if the health situation improved, which seems to be the case," Attal said.
Bars and restaurants however "will continue to experience restrictions," he added.
On Thursday Health Minister Olivier Veran said France will win its battle against the coronavirus but it is a struggle which will take time, warning the lockdown was not yet over.
The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 17,881 on Saturday, lower than the 22,882 reported on Friday while the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 dropped for the fifth day in a row and was down at 31,365.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Editing by William Maclean)