‘We are at war’: Macron orders French to stay home over coronavirus epidemic

French President Emmanuel Macron repeatedly said "we are at war" against the coronavirus on Monday evening, as he ordered French people to stay at home for 15 days unless they had essential reasons to go out. (Paywall free)

'We are at war': Macron orders French to stay home over coronavirus epidemic
French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP

President Emmanuel Macron on Monday ordered people to stay at home from midday Tuesday except for necessary reasons such as shopping, saying any violations of the stricter rules to battle the coronavirus would be punished.

In a 20-minute address to the nation, he said the French had to “severely restrict movements for the next 15 days at least” and limit social contacts as much as possible. Any violation of this new regime would be “punished,” he said.

Macron, who repeatedly said France was “at war” with the virus, also announced that the second round of local elections due to be held on March 22 would be postponed.

“We are at war. A health war, certainly, but a war,” the French president said.

“I am asking you to stay home. I am asking you to stay calm,” Macron said.

“You will be able to go to get medical help, to go to work if you have to, and to do a physical activity, but you will not be able to meet up with friends in the street,” the President said.

“You will not be able to shake hands, and you will have to keep one metre between yourselves.” 

READ ALSO: What do Macron's new coronavirus restrictions mean?

Later in the evening Macron's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner added some details to the new rules saying anyone found to be flouting them would be fined 38 euros.

Anyone outside will need to present a certificate, available to download from the government's website tonight, stating their reason for being out (although a hand written version could be accepted for those people who do not have printers).

Castaner added that people would be allowed out to walk their dogs, but not a group.

In a raft of announcements the presidents said all taxis and hotels would be put at the disposal of the health service.

The government would also deliver protective masks to the “25 most affected regions starting tomorrow,” Macron said.

In Alsace, one of the areas the hardest hit by the virus, the government would establish a military hospital with the army helping under-pressure hospitals in a region of France with a rising number of cases.

“Everyone needs to get together on one single objective: slow down the spread of the epidemic,” the president said.

“Listen to the health personnel who are saying ‘if you want to help us, stay at home’,” he said.

He also urged people “not to cede to panic or disorder”.

'Act responsibly'

France's national health agency Santé Publique France reported that the coronavirus death toll had risen to 148 on Monday, with over 6,600 confirmed cases of the virus. 

“Until now, COVID-19 was perhaps something distant,” said the president.

“Now it has turned into something immediate, something real,” Macron said, referring government's ramping up of restrictive measures this weekend, ordering all bars, restaurants and other “non-essential commercial activity” to shut down.

“We have seen people not respecting the government’s advice, continuing to go to parks and bars,” Macron said.

Despite French health authorities urging people to stay home as much as possible, many Parisians were out and about on Sunday to enjoy the sunny weather.

“To all of you who didn't follow the advice, you are not only not protecting yourself, you are also not protecting others,” Macron said, urging everyone to 'act responsibly' to lighten the strain on the already overstretched health system. 

“If you aren’t experiencing serious symptoms, don’t go to the hospital, don’t call your doctor,” he said.

Local elections postponed

Macron announced that the second round of local elections due to be held on March 22 would be postponed.

“France has never had to make such decisions,” Macron said.

“They were taken with one goal: to protect us.”


'Solidarity fund'

The government would also guarantee €300 billion for bank loans to businesses in need for financial support, the president said.

A “solidarity fund” would be set up to ensure that “no one is left facing serious financial hardship.”

The EU had agreed to shut its external borders for the next 30 days, but – for now – people would still be able to travel between the UK and France.

“The more we act together the quicker we will overcome this.”

“I am asking you not to panic. We will win.”


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France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body outlined how Covid-19 rules changed starting on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules relaxed in France as the country brought an end to compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes took effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 would return to normal starting February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 now also have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that began at the start of February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.