PARIS: Parisian restaurants cautiously reopened their indoor dining halls on Monday (Jun 15) as the government relaxed one of the last major coronavirus constraints, but with virtually no tourists and many French people still working from home, the mood was cautious.
France reported 29 new coronavirus deaths on Monday, taking the total to 29,436, the fifth-highest in the world, and marking the sixth day with under 30 fatalities.
And the number of new confirmed cases of the disease was only up 152, the lowest increase in 14 days, at 157,372.
The government also reported the number of people in hospital fell by 129 to 10,752 and those in intensive care units fell by 23 to 846, with both tallies continuing weeks-long down-trends.
President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that restaurants and cafes in Paris could reopen fully from Monday, the same day France lifted border restrictions for European Union travellers, bringing much needed relief for the hospitality industry.
Restaurants outside the Paris region were allowed to open again from Jun 2, but in the city, where the virus struck hardest, venues could only serve customers on outdoor terraces.
At Le Mesturet, a bistrot between the Opera Garnier and the Louvre museum, owner Alain Fontaine said it was a relief to reopen, but he warned that without tourists and with many people still teleworking, restaurants should not operate at full capacity in order to avoid the risk of bankruptcies.
“I am sure that by end of summer everybody will have reopened, but it may take six months to a year before business fully recovers to like it was before,” he said.
Customers were happy to visit old haunts again.
“With indoor dining possible, I feel like eating out again. A terrace is not the same thing,” said businessman Nicolas.
Jean-Paul Thomas, a software developer, was also happy to reconnect with good Gallic traditions.
“The midday meal is a moment of relaxation. Eating take-out food at your desk in 10 minutes feels much less good than taking a proper one-hour break for lunch,” he said.