Coronavirus precautions

Coronavirus in France

Measures and restrictions

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Photo above: Pharmacist serving customers outside, rather than inside, the shop

 France is under lockdown.

UPDATE Monday 13th April - Easter Monday
Lockdown prolonged until 12th May
President Macron has announced that full lockdown conditions will remain in place in France for the next four weeks. Restrictions will start to be lifted as from Monday 11th May. Any earlier relaxation of the strict social distancing and self-isolation measures currently in place, Macron said, could compromise the results already achieved, risking a renewed upsurge in contamination and deaths.
Schools - but not universities - will start to reopen if possible as from 11th May - but museums, galleries, concerts, bars and restaurants are likely to remain closed until mid July.
As for how long it will be before life in France gets back to normal, that will depend on the effectiveness of the lockdown measures, and on the development of vaccines and other methods of protecting the population.
French borders remain closed for the time being to people from outside Europe, and stringent travel restrictions are limiting movement within France to essential journeys and the transport of goods.

UPDATE Saturday 11th April 
  • France's daily hospital death rates have started to fall, and are now well below those being experienced in the UK or the USA. Though it is too soon to cry victory, the fall seems to be clear evidence of the effectiveess of the draconian self-isolating and social-distancing laws that have now been in place for more than three weeks. Over half a million people have received on-the-spot fines for not respecting the rules, with some penalties in excess of 1000 €.  Some more shops have been allowed to open, including some garden centres and DIY outlets, but social distancing is being enforced everywhere.  
  • President Macron will address the nation again next week, but an early ending to restrictions does not seem probable..
UPDATE 2  for Tuesday 24th March  
  • Prolonged:  Cartes de séjour / residence cards - Cards expiring between 16th March and 15th May are automatically extended for 90 days.
UPDATE for Tuesday 24th March
  • Reduced:  Going out for exercise - the distance is reduced to 1 km from home, and only once a day for an hour. Exercising outside must be done alone
  • Also closed:  Outdoor markets - are banned, except in villages or small towns where they provide the only weekly opportunity for buying fresh produce.
UPDATE Sunday 22 March
  • Increased: Fines increased for breaking confinement rules: the fine for breaking confinement rules twice in two weeks is now 1500 €uros, with potential prison sentences after fourth offence.
  • Extended: Curfews: Many local and regional authorities are tightening confinement rules, with towns such as Montpellier and Perpignan imposing curfews from 8 pm or 10 pm. 
  • Suspended: Weekend driving bans for trucks on French roads are temporarily suspended to facilitate the movement of goods.
  • Confirmed: general confinement regulations applicable throughout France. Stay at home; no un-necessary journeys; do not leave home without an attestation, do not congregate with other people, and do not venture more than 2 km from your home except for essential shopping, medical reasons, or to go to work. The fine for breaking the general rule is 138 €.

Empty street
Empty street in a French town
 After a few early days when the French Government did not fully assess the extent and the impact of the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and while its scientific advisors did not assess the situation as critical, France then went into lockdown. And the conditions of the lockdown have become more stringent since.

   By 8th March,  before the lockdown, and while the situation was not deemed critical, all Care-homes for the elderly were instructed to close their doors to all visitors, and all events bringing together over 1000 people in a confined space, including sports fixtures, shows and concerts, were banned. Some municipalities went further, banning smaller events too. 
  Yet with measures in place for the protection of the elderly, and with the government putting out strong messages about the need for "social distancing" (keeping at least a metre away from anyone else)  the first round of Municipal Elections went ahead on 8th March - with polling stations required to enforce strict hygiene rules and social distancing. But it was clear by then that the spread of the coronavirus was speeding up,  and that stricter and coercitive measures would be needed in order to contain it, and prevent the French health service (which is among the best equipped in the world) from being overwhelmed. 
   On  Thursday 12th March, President Macron announced that all schools, from kindergarten to university, would close as from Friday 13th March, and that all employees who could do so should work from home. People were told to stop making all but strictly necessary journeys outsiode their home.
    While supermarket shelves were emptied by panic-buying in some parts of France, notably in suburban areas, overall this has not been the case, and shops have been resupplied regularly with most items. France's outdoor fruit and food markets remain open
   On Monday 16th March, with all schools closed except for the children of health workers and parents in, other front-line services, France went on to Level 3 of its alert, with the closure of all restaurants, cafés, bars and non-essential shops.
   Since then, the whole population of France has been confined to home.  Nobody can leave their home for any reason other than to go shopping for essential supplies, for medical reasons, or simply to take exercise. As from 17th March, anyone venturing outside their home also has to carry a self-signed attestation, using a form that can be downloaded and printed out from a government website.  
   People out and about without their attestation are liable to a fine of 135 €, and police have been cracking down hard. The French Government's message is loud and clear, and designed to ensure that nobody in France goes on imagining that the measures are optional and can be ignored, as was the case in previous weeks.
   On 18th March, the confinement measures were ratcheted up a degree, with new limits on exercising: people are now forbidden to venture more than 2 km from their home, must remain in their commune (borough) and can only exercise on foot. Cycling is out. People are only allowed to walk alone, or in family groups, and may not stop to chat with friends. On no account must children be allowed to go and play with their friends if for instance they happen to see them in the park.
   Obviously, all but essential travel is forbidden, and railways and airlines are now running a reduced service.

   While the large majority of people in France have accepted, and indeed applauded, the Government's readiness to impose strict and clear restrictions on people's daily life, there are still some for whom the message has been slow to sink in. As a result, local authorities are still imposing new restrictions, to stop people congregating in popular spots.
   On 20th March, Paris closed the walkways along the banks of the Seine, and Nice announced the closure of the Promenade des Anglais, the city's famous beachside promenade. Several other seaside resorts in the south of France have closed their beaches, as the warm sunny weather had been bringing out the crowds.  The French military began setting up one of its field hospitals to increase  the capacity of the main hospital at Mulhouse, eastern France, one of the worst affected areas in France.


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