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Garlic and urine – things that will not protect you from coronavirus in France (plus a few things that will)

As the French government steps up its precautions against coronavirus - including banning gatherings of more than 5,000 people - they are also battling a wave of misleading information and panic.

Garlic and urine - things that will not protect you from coronavirus in France (plus a few things that will)
Photo: AFP

It's not unusual at times of public health fears for people to revert to old wives' tales and their grandmother's advice in order to try and stay healthy, but some of the 'remedies' being debunked in France are frankly bizarre. 

French authorities have now stepped up precautions with the news that there are 191 confirmed cases in France spread over 12 of the country's 18 regions.

Gatherings of more than 5,000 people in enclosed spaces have been banned, while in the départements of Oise and Haute-Savoie all public gatherings – including markets and Sunday Mass – have been cancelled and schools in nine towns have closed down.

For the latest of the health situation in France, click here.

But in times of crisis false information and psychose (hysteria) can be as dangerous as the illness itself.

So what won't protect you from coronavirus?

Wearing a mask – people wearing surgical masks is becoming an increasingly common sight, especially on public transport, but the government warns that the type of mask available over the counter in pharmacies and online do not protect against the virus.

Only people who may have symptoms or who are self-isolating are advised to wear one and the government is asking people not to panic-buy masks, as this can lead to shortages for people who need them.


Shaving – A graphic relating to facial hair styles and masks has been widely shared on social media, leading many to conclude that all men should shave their beards off to avoid ineffective masks. As discussed above, the majority of people do not need to be wearing masks anyway, and the graphic is an old one that relates to the wearing of protective masks in laboratory conditions. 


Garlic – There are lots of good reasons to eat garlic – it's delicious and a staple of many classic French dishes – but although it does have antioxidant properties it won't specifically protect you against coronavirus. Attempting to eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables is of course good advice all year round.

Children's urine – Bit of a bizarre one this, but apparently some people do believe it. So much so that French newspaper Le Parisien in a Q&A article felt the need to tell its readers that: “To put an end to preconceived ideas, the World Health Organisation informs that no, washing hands or rubbing surfaces with a child's urine does not protect against the new virus.” Plus, that is a disgusting idea.

READ ALSO The everyday precautions you can take against coronavirus 

And what will protect you?

Hand-washing – This is the number one message that the government is pushing. Everybody should be washing their hands throroughly and regularly, particularly before eating and after coughing or sneezing or touching surfaces that other people have touched (handles, elevator buttons, Metro poles, money). Hand sanitsier gels are also advised as an extra, but are not as effective as correctly washing your hands.


Cut down on contact – The French government has advised people to stop shaking hands and doing la bise (the French double cheek kiss greeting).

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth – Especially with unwashed hands.

Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing – You should ideally cover your mouth with your elbow – not your hand – when coughing or sneezing to avoid spreading droplet infection.

Use disposable tissues – If you are coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose do not use a reusable fabric handkerchief in which germs can live, instead use a disposable tissue and properly dispose of it after use.

Clean off surfaces – Surfaces especially in shared areas such as office desks or shared kitchen should be regularly wiped down with alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectants.

The government has also set up a free coronavirus information line – call 0800 130 000 for non medical queries.


Should you stay indoors and avoid work or school?

The government is currently advising that only people who have recently returned from China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Singapore, South Korea, Iran or the Lombardy, Emilia-Romagne or Veneto regions of Italy need to self isolate.

For more on self isolation and who needs to be doing it, click here.

Schools in nine communes in areas particularly badly affected are closed, but all others remain open at this stage.

The French government has banned all gatherings of more than 5,000 people in enclosed areas, and in the two worst-affected départements – Oise and Haute-Savoie – all public gatherings including markets and Sunday Mass have been halted.

There is also advice that non-essential travel, particularly outside the EU, should be avoided.

For people who do not fit the self isolation criteria there is no advice to stay home, simply follow the health and hygiene practices outlined above.




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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.