© Reuters.

By Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) – French ministers told hospitality industry representatives at a meeting on Tuesday that restaurants and cafes will not re-open on the anticipated Jan. 20 date because COVID-19 case numbers are too high, two restaurant lobby groups said.

The French hospitality sector had to close down its establishments on Oct. 30 because of a surge in infections. At the time, the government said they could re-open on Jan. 20 if COVID-19 rates declined enough.

But France is currently reporting an average of over 10,000 new cases a day, double the rate of 5,000 that the government set as the threshold for further easing restrictions. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)

Executives with the biggest associations representing the hospitality sector had talks with Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and other senior officials.

A spokesman for the finance ministry declined to confirm restaurants and cafes will not re-open on Jan. 20 and had no further comment.

“We well understood that we won’t re-open on Jan. 20,” said Roland Heguy of UMIH, France’s biggest hospitality sector lobby group, who was at the meeting.

He said ministers had also been unable to give a later date when restaurants and cafes could re-open.

Marcel Benezet, an executive with the GNI lobby group, whose boss was at the meeting, also told Reuters re-opening on Jan. 20 was no longer on the agenda.

France’s nearly 200,000 bars, restaurants and cafes say they are experiencing severe hardship because of the closures, with some facing bankruptcy. They have appealed to the government for more financial help.

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