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HEALTH

France tightens coronavirus lockdown with bans on hunting, beaches and hiking trails

As the number of coronavirus cases in France doubles every four days the country's already strict lockdown has been tightened with the authorities reminding the public that hunting, hiking and fishing are banned while beaches are now mostly out of bounds.

France tightens coronavirus lockdown with bans on hunting, beaches and hiking trails
The walkways along the Seine are now out of bounds. Photo: AFP

France is under lockdown with everyone ordered to stay home and trips out permitted for essential activities only.

People are permitted to leave their homes for;

  • Travel to and from work IF your work is essential and cannot be done from home
  • To go shopping for essentials
  • To go to medical appointments
  • For urgent family reasons such as providing care for children or the elderly
  • To take individual exercise, although there are strict controls on this too.

But amid widespread frustration at a minority of people flouting the rules, some local authorities have introduced stricter controls.

READ ALSO France's lockdown: Your questions answered

In Paris the police chief has announced a total ban on movement in certain parts of the city.

Préfet de Police Didier Lallement announced on Friday that he and mayor Anne Hidalgo had decided to bring in a ban on gatherings in some areas and a total movement ban in others.

 

It comes as some in Paris were caught flouting the lockdown restrictions by strolling and chatting in the pleasant spring sunshine.

From now on the pathways along the banks of the Seine, the Esplanade des Invalides and the Champ-de-Mars are out of bounds with no travel or gatherings permitted on them.

The Esplanade des Invalides is completely banned, while in other areas local residents and delivery staff will be permitted to travel for essential reasons, but they will need to provide proof.

Lallement said: “Even though most city inhabitants scrupulously respect the strict confinement instructions, it must be noted that despite the repeated calls for civic-mindedness issued by the State and City authorities and the numerous controls carried out by the police, too much careless and even irresponsible behaviour is still to be deplored.”

The mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, also told LCI radio that he is considering imposing a 9pm curfew, with essential workers the only people allowed out in the evening.
 
He has already closed the famous Promenade des Anglais seafront promenade.
 
The southern city of Perignan has also imposed a curfew from 8pm to 6am.
 
 
 
Is Nice headed for a curfew? Photo: AFP
 
 
Initially only group hunting was banned but to the delight of animal welfare associations the government clarified the rules with all forms individual hunting also banned.

On Friday authorities in Dordogne released a statement reminding people that outdoor activities like hunting and fishing also come under the ban on leaving home for non-essential activity.

The statement reminded people that “outdoor activities are not among the reasons allowed for leaving your home” and added that hunting, trapping, non-professional fishing and sailing were all banned under the terms of the national lockdown.

The three regional authorities which cover France's south coast – Corsica, Provence-Alpes-Côtes d'Azur and Occitanie – have already banned all access to beaches in the south after people were observed meeting up on the beaches for social gatherings.

On Thursday, authorities closed beaches and hiking trails along the Atlantic coast in the Morbihan region of Brittany.

Officials in Morbihan also banned all accommodation rentals on four islands, including the popular 
Belle-Ile.

“The habitation of furnished lodgings that are not primary residences is restricted to the owner, and in their presence, their children and parents,” according to a government decree.

Local officials in Normandy have also banned people from walking, jogging and cycling on coastal paths.

The government has also been reminding the public living near the coast that all forms of water sports are forbidden at this time. Here the ministry of sport retweet instructions from authorities in Brittany reminding the public that activities such as kite surfing and sailboating were banned.

 

The entire Mediterranean coast was also declared off-bounds because “We are seeing too many people on the beaches”, regional prefect Pierre Dartout told AFP.

With most museums and landmarks already closed, the Sacre-Coeur basilica overlooking the capital was shuttered for the first time Thursday since it was built in 1914.

Prison visits have been suspended and the Cannes film festival postponed.

 

 

 

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HEALTH

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones. 

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