France is beginning to ease its COVID-19 restrictions earlier than planned, starting with the lifting of a curfew that has been in place since 2020.

The country’s prime minister said the nationwide night-time curfew, which has been in place since late last year, will now end on 20 June – 10 days early.

He added that soon face masks will no longer be required outdoors, as daily coronavirus infections are falling faster than anticipated.

Speaking at a news conference, prime minister Jean Castex said: “We’re on the right track – let’s keep up our efforts.

“The health situation is improving faster than we had anticipated, everywhere in mainland France.”

Last week, restaurants, cafes and bars across the country were able to open for the first time in seven months.

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In the UK, a plan to lift all COVID-19 restrictions was pushed back from 21 June to 19 July amid rising cases of the Delta (Indian) variant, which now makes up 91% of all new infections.

However, French health minister, Olivier Veran, said the more transmissible variant only represented between 2% and 4% of confirmed cases in France.

He warned that if the Delta variant became dominant in the country, it could lead to another wave of infections.

The latest data from Johns Hopkins University shows France has recorded 5,806,418 COVID cases, 110,692 virus-related deaths and it has administered 44,304,266 vaccine doses.

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