France's economy minister Bruno Le Maire has said businesses could reopen as early as Friday 27 November, despite a second nationwide lockdown that is to continue until 1 December, if Covid-19 indicators continue to improve.
"We are working on a health protocol for all shops and supermarkets. It should be concluded on Friday and be operational next Monday," said Bruno Le Maire in an interview with CNews channel.
Le Maire, who wants a rapid reopening of businesses specified: "Once the sanitary protocol is on the table and the epidemic peak is well behind us, we will be able to reopen on 1 December at the latest – and if we can also save a weekend, even better," referring to the weekend beginning on Friday 27 November, which marks the US-turned-global mega sales phenomenon "Black Friday".
A range of businesses deemed non-essential, from booksellers and toy stores to clothing retailers, have been clamouring for permission to once again welcome clients, saying enough precautions were in place to limit contagion risks.
Many are also calling to reopen as soon as 27 November, to capitalise on the "Black Friday" sales frenzy they say will otherwise profit only huge online competitors like Amazon.
An open letter signed by some 120 lawmakers, union leaders, NGOs and business owners on Monday called for a special tax on Amazon and other "profiteers from the crisis".
"We must give restaurant and bar owners visibility quickly", added Le Maire, before specifying that he would provide them with details "in the coming days" on the date of their reopening.
A reflection should be carried out by the end of the year, but the economy minister said he "hoped" that the restaurants will be open by the beginning of February next year.