How to survive a coronavirus quarantine, French style

Twice a day they will have their temperature taken and nurses will check them for coronavirus symptoms: other than that, their main concern will be how to keep their phone charged and get their laundry done.

How to survive a coronavirus quarantine, French style
Photos: AFP

The 179 evacuees — mostly made up of French nationals and their Chinese spouses — flown back from China were settling into their new life in quarantine on Saturday. A holiday resort in the southeast of France that will be their home for the next two weeks.

These special guests will have the run of their seaside base in Carry-le-Rouet, about 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the Mediterranean port city of Marseille — so long as they wear a mask.

On Saturday, their first morning there, some were up to take in the sunrise, others sat outside in the mild weather reading while others explored inside the hotel complex.

“There are worse places,” said Marc Ziltman with a smile, as children's shouts echoed across the facility.

“The easy solution would have been a disused barracks,” Zilman, the senior Red Cross official on site, pointed out. Instead, the French authorities opted to make the evacuees stay as comfortable as possible.

“The site needs to be as agreeable as possible because people are going to pass 14 days there,” he told AFP.

Gendarme patrols

There is volleyball for the teenagers, art classes for the toddlers and a space for the grown-ups to relax over a coffee, making it more holiday resort than hospital or clinic.

For the moment, no one here has shown any symptoms that could indicate they have caught the new coronavirus. Two possible cases identified as the evacuees came off their plane on Friday tested negative at La Timone hospital in Marseille.

The medical team looking after the evacuees is about 20 strong, including doctors, nurses and psychologists. Backing them are are soldiers from France's civil security units and 30 Red Cross volunteers, who mainly take care of the logistics of their stay.

On their first day back on Saturday, the new arrivals got down to solving the immediate challenges raised by their rather hasty repatriation: how to do their laundry, change their Chinese currency and get hold of cigarettes.

A concierge service was already up and running to attend to their needs.

“Yesterday, they were tired, which is quite normal,” said Zyltman. They had their evening meal and went quietly to bed. “Now, life is back on course and it's going rather well,” he added.

As the special guests got their bearings, members of France's paramilitary gendarme force patrolled the site, keeping careful guard at the resort's only access point.

But they are in any case at a fairly isolated site, in the middle of a pine forest, in a cove more than 3 kilometres from the seaside village of Carry-le-Rouet itself.

The parents of a student flown back from China were already outside, having come to deliver him a travel bag with clean clothes. They had to leave it with the gendarmes at the entrance.

Their son had described the atmosphere there as “fairly convivial”, he said.

“I think they are all relieved to be there, in very good conditions, he told the journalists gathered outside.

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‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief.