Should I cancel my trip to Paris because of coronavirus?

When we asked our readers if they had any questions about the situation with coronavirus in France, the question that came up most often was from people who had booked trips to Paris and were wondering whether to cancel. We take a look at the situation in the capital.

Should I cancel my trip to Paris because of coronavirus?
Disneyland Paris has closed. All photos: AFP

This article is no longer being updated because the situation has changed dramatically. For the latest information on the situation in France, and the restrictions in place, click here.





What's the transport situation?

The major effect on transport so far is the USA's decision to ban arrivals from Schengen zone countries. Announced on Wednesday night by US president Donald Trump, not everything is clear about the ban at this stage.

READ ALSO Coronavirus and travel – what is the situation for France?

It seems that American citizens are not covered by it, neither are people who travel from France to the US via the UK, nor are flights from the US to France. However it's early days and it's possible that some of these loopholes will be closed in the coming days. So while it's still possible for Americans to come to France, they might face some problems getting back.

Away from transatlantic routes, most flight disruptions are down to individual airlines cancelling and France itself has not imposed any restrictions on flights.

However travel between France and Italy is badly disrupted as airlines including Air France, Ryanair and Easyjet have cancelled all flights until April.

At present no airline has announced that it will stop flying to France. British Airways has said that it will cancel some of its flights between France and the UK later in March, but this is due to falling demand rather than any health restrictions in place.

Air France announced on Wednesday that anyone who wants to cancel their flight between now and May 31st due to coronavirus fears can do so free of charge. 

The EU has announced it will suspend it's 'use it or lose it' rule in relation to airport slots that had compelled some airlines to operate virtually empty flights, so with a sharp fall in passenger numbers we see more flights cancelled in the weeks ahead.

City public transport is running as normal, although it's possible that some services may be restricted from Monday because of the closure of the schools (more on that below).

That said, if you would rather avoid the Metro altogether and stay out in the fresh air, Paris has lots of transport alternatives.

READ ALSO Six ways to get around Paris without using the Metro 

What is the situation in France?

France was the first country in Europe to confirm a coronavirus case, back on January 24th. That initial outbreak was limited to 12 people – all but one of whom had recently travelled from China. Eleven recovered and one – an 80-year-old man – died.

There was then a pause of almost two weeks until a more serious outbreak occurred in neighbouring Italy, which has gradually spread to France until the infection toll rose to nearly 2,300 and 48 people have died.

You can find the latest information on the situation in France here.

If you do come to Paris, don't miss out on having a cheeky snog by the Eiffel Tower. Photo: AFP

At present the cases are largely concentrated in 10 'clusters' – Mulhouse in the Haut-Rhin département in eastern France, Oise in the north east, Morbihan in Brittany, two areas in Haute-Savoie in the Alps, the entire island of Corsica,the Aude département in southern France, Calvados in Normandy and eastern Montpellier.

A tenth cluster was a tour group that had travelled to Egypt, with 13 people testing positive for the virus.

MAP Which areas of France are worst affected by coronavirus?

The Île-de-France region – which includes Paris and its suburbs – has confirmed more than 500 cases, although many of those are people who actually contracted the illness elsewhere but were then moved to one of the specialist hospitals in Paris.

How has this affected daily life in the capital?

The French government has banned all public gatherings of more than 1,000 people.

This includes concerts, performances at Paris Opéra and some large sporting events. The Parish Marathon and the France v Ireland Six Nations rugby match have both been postponed until the autumn while football fixtures are going ahead but being played behind closed doors.

READ ALSO Coronavirus events ban – what has been cancelled in France?

Most Paris tourist attractions remain open but some of the larger sites including the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay and nearby Versailles are limiting visitor numbers. People are advised to heck with the individual attraction and buy tickets online in advance.

Disneyland Paris is closed until the end of March after three staff members tested positive for the virus.

A package of measures announced by President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday are likely to have a more indirect effect on the capital.

All schools in France will close from Monday. The fact that many parents will have to stay home and look after their children could lead to businesses having to close or reduce their opening hours.

Macron also asked the French people to “take responsibility” and limit their social interactions as far as possible, so it is likely that bars and restaurants will be quieter than usual, although there is no ban on their opening.

The government has also advised people to avoid shaking hands and doing la bise (the distinctive French double kiss greeting) and told over 70s, disabled people and those with long term health conditions to stay at home.

READ ALSO: Bise blues – How the French are coping with the coronavirus kissing ban

Anyone in France is also advised to follow this basic health advice:

  • Wash hands your thoroughly and often with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing or before eating or it you have been touching surfaces that many other people will have touched such as on the Metro
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with your elbow when coughing or sneezing
  • Use disposable tissues and throw them away after use
  • Clean off surfaces with alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectants.

The Local's Ben McPartland explains to The Earful Tower podcast the latest on the situation in Paris.

Should I wear a mask when I'm in Paris?

No. The French government's advice is that only medical professionals, those who already have the virus or those who are self isolating need to wear a mask. Anyone else does not need to wear one and they do not protect against the spread of the virus.

After a spate of panic buying of masks that created shortages for those who genuinely needed them, the government has stepped in to requisition mask supplies and distribute them. Hand sanitiser gel is advised, although stocks have been running low and the government has now capped the price at €3 per 100ml.

The French government has now requisitioned masks and is distributing them to those who need them. Photo: AFP

Is there likely to be a quarantine or curfew?

At this stage no. France is currently in 'stage 2' or the pre-epidemic stage, but politicians have said for some days that a full epidemic is probably only a matter of time.

We look at exactly what that means here (and why it's less scary than it sounds). France's emergency planning laws do contain provision to declare population restrictions if the government deems it necessary, but it is not at present part of the coronavirus plan.

Instead the expected measures for stage three include extra support and funding for health professionals, financial support for people who cannot work and possible restrictions on public transport.

How dangerous is the virus anyway?

This is a new virus so at this stage there are a lot of uncertainties about it, and there is still no vaccine or confirmed cure.

However the World Health Organisation is currently putting the death toll at about 3.5 percent – so higher than for seasonal flu but still not very high.

So far in Europe the majority of the people who have died have been elderly or had underlying health issues.

READ ALSO What are the rules of self isolating and quarantine in France?

If you do decide to come, it's likely that people will be pleased to see you.

France's tourist industry took a hammering in December and over the New Year – usually one of the busiest times of the year, especially in Paris – as mass transportation strikes caused many people to stay away.

Hotels, bars and restaurants reported a significant dip in takings as Parisians decided to stay home in the evenings rather than chancing the few transport services that were still running.

The hardship came on top of a year of 'yellow vest' protests in Paris, which also put some people off from travelling to France.

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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.