"Non-essential" stores across France have reopened their doors after a month of closure under a second Covid-19 lockdown. Store owners on Saturday eagerly welcomed back customers with their hopes pinned on the Christmas period to try to salvage something from a disastrous 2020.
Book sellers, hairdressers, toy stores and ready to wear outlets are some of the businesses that have been authorised to operate in what the first step in lifting the nationwide lockdown.
"I'd rather avoid the internet, I'm going to buy things in the shops. They need it," said Anne Dubois, one of the first customers applauded through the doors by staff at the Galeries Lafayette department store in central Paris as it opened at 10:00 am.
"Whether or not there's people here, at least we've got our daily life getting back to normal," said 36-year-old Aurelie, a manager in the L'Oreal section at the store.
Among the measures to ensure less crowding, the government announced that it would facilitate exemptions for the opening of businesses on Sundays as well as letting stores remain open until 9 pm.
France aims to lift the lockdown on December 15 when cinemas, theatres and museums will be allowed to reopen and travel restrictions will be lifted.
However, restaurants, bars, cafes, night clubs and sports halls will continue to remain closed. The lockdown will be replaced by a nationwide curfew from 9:00 pm to 7:00 am starting December 15 except on December 24 and 31.
Announcing these measures in a TV address on November 24, French President Emmanuel Macron said some restrictions would remain in place to avoid a resurgence of the virus, and the threat of another lockdown.
"We have slowed the spread of the virus," Macron said, "but it is still very much present".
According to health authorities, the second virus wave reached its peak in mid-November indicated by the declining numbers of new infections, new hospital admissions and new intensive care patients.
"If we don't want a third lockdown, we must intensify our efforts," Macron said.