France’s theatres, museums and other cultural venues will remain closed until at least the end of January, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced yesterday (Thursday).

Castex said museums, cinemas, theatres, concert halls and gyms “will not [reopen] in the weeks to come.” Meanwhile, bars and restaurants will stay closed until at least mid-February.

Venues had been eyeing a January 20 reopening after being initially ordered to close on October 30 as the French authorities responded to a second wave of COVID-19. The government had initially said theatres would be able to reopen on December 15, which led exhibitors and distributors to prepare for a relaunch.

However, five days before the planned reopening the government pushed the deadline to January 7 as the number of cases remained high.

The decision to keep cultural venues closed was criticised within France’s entertainment industry, particularly with exhibitors and distributors who had launched marketing campaigns for several releases and re-releases in December.

French cultural bodies, including the French exhibitors’ association FNCF, appealed the government decision, but the State Council rejected the legal bid and upheld the ruling.

France will also remain under an 8pm to 6am curfew, with the earlier 6pm to 6am curfew – already in place in 15 regions in eastern France – is set to be extended to another 10 départements (similar to counties), after consultation with local authorities.

There are currently 15,000 new coronavirus cases and almost 2,500 hospitalisations every day, according to Castex. He said: “Granted, it is much less than the 50,000 daily cases we had at the end of October, and granted, the circulation is less active here than at our neighbor’s where lockdown measures were reinforced within the last few days… but our situation has become more fragile.”

Castex said: “The time has not come to return to normal. We still admit one person to intensive care every seven minutes and one in two people in intensive care are there for Covid-19.”

The situation will be reviewed again on January 20, with the aim of a possible reopening for some sectors in mid-February, if the health situation permits.

Image: David Joyce/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size