France says coronavirus situation is ‘deteriorating very fast’ as new restrictions planned

French health chief says the coronavirus situation was 'deteriorating very fast' as the government mulled new measures in the fight to stem the spread of the epidemic. Health chiefs have urged the public to "stay at home". (Paywall free)

France says coronavirus situation is 'deteriorating very fast' as new restrictions planned
French President Emmanuel Macron flanked by health chief Jérôme Salomon. Photo: AFP


The coronavirus epidemic in France is “very worrying” and the situation “deteriorating very fast”, the head of the country's health service Jérôme Salomon said on Monday.

“The number of cases double every three days,” Salomon said on France Inter, adding that the number of seriously ill patients and those needing intensive care “runs into hundreds”.

Salomon said every French person had to ask themselves the following,

“How can I, as of today, divide by three or four the number of people I come in contact with,” the health chief said.

“Stay at home, it's as simple as that.”

The message came as the government considered ramping up measures to limit the spread of the epidemic, which was putting a heavy load on the country's already overstretched hospitals.

French media have widely reported that the government would announce confinement measures and curfews for the whole country to come into force on Monday or Tuesday.

On Monday morning government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye described the reports of a curfew as “fake news”.

But she added: “We are examining all the useful measures to get people to change their behaviour.”

Ndiaye added that those measures would be discussed and based on the current outlook of the epidemic.

Santé Publique France reported 127 coronavirus linked deaths on Sunday evening and over 5,400 confirmed cases of the virus. 

All French health authorities have however pushed the same message over the past days: the country must slow down the spread of the coronavirus in order to avoid a situation similar to that of its neighbour Italy, where hospitals have been overwhelmed with the number of serious cases over the past weeks.

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

French media reported this weekend that the government was considering to impose similar mandatory quarantine rules in France as those seen in Italy and Spain.

“We have observed that the first measures we have taken have not been correctly applied,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said this weekend. “The best way to slow the virus is social distancing.”

Philippe said that the advice of most scientists was that the government should step up restrictive measures in a bid to slow down the epidemic.

France already ratcheted up its coronavirus regulations this weekend, ordering the closing of cafes, restaurants, schools and universities – all “non-essential commercial activity” – and limiting long-distance travel “to the strictly necessary.”

All nurseries, schools and universities were closed on Monday and everyone who can have been told to do télétravail (work from home).

The French government will meet with the both the scientific council working specifically to deal with the crisis and the opposition this week to consult on the next steps to stem the spread of the crisis.

READ MORE: What's closed (and what's open) in France following the new coronavirus restrictions

Such steps could include enforcing mandatory curfews in some parts of the country for a temporary period of time.

In Italy, authorities have asked everyone to stay inside unless they have an urgent reason to go out, such as work, a medical appointment or to buy food.

All citizens must fill out a standardised form stating their reason for being outside and submit it to authorities if asked. 

The punishment for submitting an untrue story in Italy spans from a fine of several hundred euros to criminal charges and up to three months in prison.

You can read more about Italy's quarantine rules on our Italian site (paywall free).



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French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.