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HEALTH

Coronavirus: French health workers to get free train travel while Paris mayor raises alarm over busy markets

French health workers responding to calls to reinforce overwhelmed hospitals will get free transport on trains, the state rail operator SNCF said on Monday while the mayor of Paris raises alarm about busy markets.

Coronavirus: French health workers to get free train travel while Paris mayor raises alarm over busy markets
French health workers responding to calls to reinforce overwhelmed hospitals will get free transport on trains, the state rail operator SNCF said on Monday. AFP

Doctors, nurses and aid workers are in short supply in Paris and in other areas suffering the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak, which has now caused 860 deaths in France.

Medical workers who can prove they are travelling for work will ride for free, even as rail services were slashed after a nationwide stay-at-home order to curb the outbreak, the head of SNCF Voyages, Alain Krakovitch, told AFP. 

“The SNCF should be showing solidarity with aid workers,” he said.

Officials in eastern France have also made local train and bus services free for health workers, and the mayor of the Mediterranean city of Nice said Sunday that public buses were now exclusively for the use of health workers.

French energy giant Total said Monday it was offering hospitals fuel vouchers to distribute to health workers for use at its network of petrol stations, a donation worth up to €50 million ($54 million).

With hospitals already overwhelmed by 7,240 coronavirus patients, the military has stepped in to transfer sick people from the worst-hit regions and set up field hospitals.

Doctors have urged officials to extend and possibly tighten the confinement measures keeping people at home, and a scientific advisory panel set up by President Emmanuel Macron is set to give an opinion shortly, an Elysee Palace official said.

Several cities have imposed curfews in recent days, though the measure has not yet been ordered for Paris, where outdoor food markets were held as usual over the weekend, albeit with stepped-up police patrols.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo said Monday that she had asked the Paris police chief to evaluate the risks of keeping the markets open, after crowds thronged markets in the city's working-class neighbourhoods of Barbès and Belleville.

Later on Monday French PM Edouard Philippe told TV viewers that pen air markets would be closed although local authorities could apply to keep them open in special cases.

On Sunday, France's parliament declared a health emergency for a two-month period, giving the government greater powers to fight the pandemic.

The law allows the government to take measures to support companies and backs up its decision to delay the second round of municipal elections.

The government has also increased fines for leaving home without a valid reason, with the penalty for a second offence now €1,500 ($1,600).

Police said nearly 1.8 million checks have been carried out since the confinement was imposed last Tuesday, with nearly 92,000 fines issued.

Government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said on Sunday that a confinement extension was “likely”, while Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said schools were unlikely to resume before May 4.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Property bargains, energy prices, and myth-busting: 6 essential articles for life in France

Where you could bag a property bargain in France, how energy prices aren’t soaring in France, and why the leaves are falling earlier than usual - plus a couple of myths well and truly busted - here are six essential articles for life in France.

Property bargains, energy prices, and myth-busting: 6 essential articles for life in France

While French cities such as Paris are notoriously expensive, there are many areas outside the cities where it is still possible to buy spacious homes for less than €100,000 – particularly if you don’t mind a bit of renovation.

MAP: Where in France can you buy property for less than €100k?

Speaking of property – here’s some potential good news for some second-home owners; the French government has put in place a new online process for regular visitors in France to get a carte de séjour – here’s who is eligible for this and how to apply.

Can second-home owners in France get a carte de séjour?

Reasons to be cheerful about living in France: as energy prices soar around Europe, France is the notable exception where most people have seen no significant rise in their gas or electricity bills – so what lies behind this policy?

And no, it’s not because the French would riot if their bills exploded, or not entirely, anyway.

EXPLAINED: Why are French energy prices capped?

It might look like autumn outside in certain parts of France, but it certainly feels like summer.

So, why are the leaves falling from the trees? And what does that mean for your garden?

Reader question: Why are the leaves falling in summer and does that mean my garden is dead?

The Da Vinci Code starts here – with the legend of a penniless priest who once stumbled upon gold hidden in the French countryside. It’s a story that still inspires treasure-hunters.

We look deeper into the myth – and help you decide if you should stock up on a shovel and a metal detector.

French history myths: There is buried treasure in Rennes-le-Château

Speaking of myths, apparently, kids and long train journeys do mix…

Hoping to do his bit for the planet, perhaps save some money and avoid spending any time at Charles de Gaulle airport, The Local’s Europe editor Ben McPartland decided to travel 2,000km with his family from Paris to southern Portugal by train rather than plane.

Here’s what he had to say about the experience.

Yes, train travel from France across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

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