France urges citizens to keep a lid on post-lockdown euphoria

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FILE PHOTO: French cafes and restaurants reopen their terraces to customers in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - French officials urged citizens not to let down their guard against COVID-19, after some people responded to the easing of restrictions by staging street parties late into the night.

Starting on Wednesday, cafes and restaurants were allowed to serve customers in outside areas, and the nightly curfew was pushed back by two hours, to 9:00 pm (1900 GMT).

In the city of Rennes, 350 km (217 miles) west of Paris, a large crowd of people danced around a bonfire in a central square after the 9:00 p.m. curfew fell on Wednesday evening, video footage posted on social media showed.

Police in riot gear moved in to disperse the crowd, according to French public television.

In one street in Paris lined with pavement cafes, large numbers of people were still sitting at tables nursing drinks after the curfew, undeterred by a police patrol.

In the city of Bordeaux, south-west France, crowds of young people -- many of them without masks -- drank and danced in a central square until at least 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday, French public television reported.

Responding to those scenes, French Prime Minister Jean Castex urged people to show collective discipline, and to respect the rules that are still in place.

(Writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Jonathan Oatis)