The lockdown policy, which came into force at 12 noon on Tuesday, basically tells everyone in France to stay in their homes.
Schools, colleges, nurseries, non-essential shops, bars, restaurants, tourist sites and leisure facilities are all closed and everyone who can must work from home.
Every time you do leave the house you need to fill in a form giving your reason for leaving, and there are only a few reasons that are deemed acceptable.
- Travel to and from work IF your work cannot be done from home and it is essential for the business
- Essential food shopping
- Medical appointments
- Vital family reasons such as providing care to children or the elderly (but not family visits)
- To take brief individual physical exercise (eg go for a run or walk the dog, but it needs to be in your area and alone)
The form itself is quite brief and we have received a lot of questions from readers. Here we answer some of the most commonly asked.
Do I need a different form every time I go out?
Yes. The form has a space at the bottom for your signature, the date and time, so each time you go out you need to fill out a new form, tick the reason for your trip then sign and date it.
How can I get the form?
The form is available to be downloaded here.
What if I don't have a printer?
A handwritten copy of the form is acceptable and, from April 6th, a smartphone version will be available.
Do I need proof of where I am going?
Not at the moment. When you sign the form you are making a declaration on your honour that what you say is true. However, if there is widespread flouting of the rules this could be tightened up.
Do the rules only apply to people walking?
No, the restriction is on any journey out of the home – whether that is on foot, by car, motorbike, hoverboard etc. Cycling has been completely banned during the lockdown.
Police will be setting up roadblocks on both major and secondary routes and will be stopping drivers to ask for their form. The same rules apply to drivers, so you can drive to food shops or pharmacies, medical appointments or to complete urgent family business.
Can I fill the car up with petrol/gas?
Yes, if you rely on a car to get to the shops you will need to do this. Many businesses are closed but supermarkets are still open, and so are their filling stations.
Can we go out as a family?
No, the rules state that as far as possible any trips outside the home should be taken alone. Obviously there will be some flexibility in this – if you are a single parent and need to go and buy food you may have to take the children with you. But if you are a couple only one of you should go to the shops and the other one stay at home.
This sounds stupid, we are all living in the same house?
It's about having as few people as possible on the streets/in the shops at any one time. The more who are out and about the more opportunities the virus has to spread.
Can I go for a walk or a run just to get some fresh air?
Yes, although this must be a short one. Joggers are restricted to 2km. Walking the dog is allowed.
I'm a tourist, can I still travel to get to the port/airport to get home?
Yes, although it's not a category on the form, France's Interior Minister has stated that tourist going home are allowed to travel.
You should write on your form Je rentre au Royaume-Uni/ aux Etas-Uni en voiture / par avion (aeroport de: ville) / par train – I am returning to the UK/ the USA by car/ by air (name the airport you are flying from) / by train.
What if I need to check on family members?
The exemption for family trips is limited to providing urgent care to children or older people, it is does not include just popping in to see that someone is OK – particularly if that person is elderly or ill as they are the most vulnerable group to the virus. Visits to all retirement homes and nursing homes in France were banned more than a week ago in order to protect the most vulnerable.
So although it will be hard, it is better for elderly people if you don't visit – instead phone, email, get them hooked up on Facebook or Twitter for virtual company. If you are shopping for older people it's best to drop the provisions off outside.
Is this the only form I need if I have to go work?
If you still have to go work during the lockdown because your job cannot be done from home and is deemed essential to the business then you will also need to carry with you a second “justificatif de deplacement professionel” that must be signed by your employer.
On that form you have to detail how you get to work.
I'm supposed to moving house, can I still do this?
This wouldn't count as an urgent reason. Speak to the sellers/notaires and arrange a delay, not much normal business is being transacted right now anyway.
Someone I know has died, can I go to the funeral?
Probably not. Although burials and cremations are going ahead funerals have been limited to 20 people only. Some undertakers are offering live streaming of the service to people who cannot go.
What happens if I break any of these rules?
You face a fine. Fines were set €38 when the lockdown started, but have been raised to €135. The government has warned they may yet rise even further. On the first full day of quarantine (Wednesday March 8th) police across France handed out some 4,000 fines.
Police officers across France have been given extra training in the rules, but in both Italy and Spain people have reported different interpretations of the rules by different officers in different places. It's likely that will happen here too, especially in the early days when there is still much uncertainty.
Try to bear in mind that this is a difficult and stressful time for police officers too, and the majority of them will only be doing their best to interpret the rules according to the information they have been given.
How long does this last for?
Initially for 15 days from March 17th, so until April 1st, but the French government has made it clear that this could be extended if needed, and the lockdown is described as a 'minimum of 15 days'.