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These are the French towns and cities that have imposed coronavirus curfews

More than 20 French mayors have installed curfews in their areas to fight the spread of coronavirus, with others saying they are likely to follow.

These are the French towns and cities that have imposed coronavirus curfews
Municipal police officers patrol the streets of Colombes, a town near Paris, after a curfew forbidding anyone from leaving their homes at night time entered into effect this weekend. Photo: AFP

The number of French towns and cities imposing night time curfews to reduce movement in their areas multiplied this weekend, with more municipalities having said they too might follow suit in the days to come.

From Nice in the south to Arras in the north, more 20 French municipalities had on Monday imposed variations of curfews (couvre-feux) in a bid to stop the spread of COVID -19, the highly contagious virus that is circulating actively on the entire French territory and putting a heavy toll on the country’s health system.

The curfews came on top of the existing nationwide ban on all non-essential commercial activities and stringent rules on individual movement outside of the home.

“We are continuing to see completely irresponsible behaviour (by some people),” Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi – who himself has tested positive of having the coronavirus – wrote in a tweet on Friday, as he announced a curfew among three new restrictive measures in the city to reduce people's movements further.

 

Several big cities and smaller towns in the south west quickly followed suit. Before the weekend was over, Perpignan, Beziers, Montpellier and others had added to the list.

On Sunday, the entire south west Alpes-Maritimes département decided to impose a regional curfew from 10pm and to 5am in all cities numbering more than 10,000 inhabitants, valid until March 31st.

Anyone leaving their house in that interval would risk a fine €135 fine. 

Health workers and others in professions qualified as 'essential' to deal with the coronavirus epidemic would be the only ones exempt from this rule.

Outside of the curfew period the 'normal' lockdown rules still applied, with everyone being allowed to leave their homes for only a few essential activities and always bringing the mandatory form issued by the French government.

Follow all out latest coronavirus coverage in France here.

North and south

Outside the south, the areas that had imposed curfews by Monday were largely concentrated in the far north and north east. Cholet, in the mid-western département of Maine-et-Loire, was a lone exception in the west, having introduced a curfew from 9pm-5am.

Some of the cities in the Grand Est – the area in northeast France that has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic – have imposed curfews that begin even earlier, some places as early as 6pm.

Near Paris, Colombes was so far the only town with a curfew banning all outside activity between 10pm and 5am entering into effect on Saturday.

Municipal police officers patrol Colombes, near Paris on March 22, 2020, after a curfew was imposed to ban all outside activity during nighttime. Photo: AFP

On Monday, Trappes, in the Yvelines département, followed suit and announced that they too would introduce a curfew.

 

Towards a nationwide curfew?

Many have asked if the French government could introduce a nationwide curfew on top of the lockdown, but so far the interior ministry has said these kinds of restrictive measures should remain in the power of local officials.

Note: Because this is an evolving situation that rapidly could change, we recommend everyone check their local authorities' recommendations as well as social media to keep up-to-date with new rules in their respective area.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Why does secular France have Catholic holidays?

You might not have thought about it too much as you enjoyed an extra day off work, but it is perhaps unexpected that France - proudly secular since 1905 - has so many public holidays based around Catholic festivals.

Reader question: Why does secular France have Catholic holidays?

Reader question: Why does France have Catholic holidays like Ascension, Assumption and Toussaints? I thought it was supposed to be a secular republic?

The French Republic is very proud of its secular principles but yet as some readers observed, many public holidays are linked to Catholic celebrations, a reminder of its religious history.

Roughly half of the public holidays in France represent Catholic events: Easter, Ascension (May 26th), Assumption (August 15th), Pentecost (for some people), All Saints’ day (November 1st) and of course Christmas.

If you live in Alsace-Moselle (formerly Alsace-Lorraine) you get two extra holidays, both religious ones – Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) and St Stephen’s Day (December 26th) – more on why that is later.

France’s secular stance takes its roots in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 but was formally codified into law in 1905. 

France does not recognise, pay or subsidise any religion. So French local and national governments are not allowed to finance churches, mosques, synagogues or temples, and religious symbolism is not allowed in State buildings or for representatives of the State.

It is these rules that mean that, for example, French primary schools don’t perform nativity plays at Christmas and French female police officers are not permitted to wear the Muslim headscarf while on duty.

EXPLAINED What does France’s secularism really mean?

The flip side of this is that freedom of worship is also protected in the 1905 law, and everyone is allowed to practice whatever religion they choose in their private life.

The only exception to the secular rules are the three departments of Alsace-Moselle. When the 1905 law was passed the region was part of Germany and only became French again at the end of World War I. As part of the compromise agreed, today bishops, priests, rabbis and pastors have the status of civil servants and the state pays for the maintenance of religious buildings. Religious education in public schools is also preserved.

So all that seems to pretty strongly suggest that Catholic festivals should play no part in France’s holiday calendar and only the secular events – such as the Fête nationale on July 14th or VE Day on May 8th – should remain.

However, by the time secularism was formally codified into law in 1905 there was already a fairly fixed calendar of holidays and festivals – although this had already been slimmed down under the Napoleonic government in 1802 – and suddenly axing popular festivals was likely to go down pretty badly with the population at large.

Essentially then, this was a pragmatic compromise between tradition and secularism and over the years politicians have been understandably reluctant to tell the French they must lose their holidays.

But it’s noticeable that all the religious festivals in the calendar are Christian ones, and while this may reflect France’s history it’s not so representative of the current demographics, where an estimated 10 percent of the population either practice the Muslim faith or have a Muslim family background.

So could we see a scenario when we knock Ascension on the head but make Eid a public holiday?

It’s theoretically possible – in 2015 the French parliament voted through an amendment that would allow the départments of France’s Overseas Territories (Martinique, Gaudeloupe, Mayotte, Réunion and French Guiana) to switch a Catholic bank holiday for another religious celebration to suit different faiths in the local population.

However none of the overseas départements has yet made that move. 

A fresh amendment would be required to make the same move in mainland France, and there appears to be little political appetite for that at present.

What are France’s public holidays? 

  • January 1st: New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Monday, only a holiday in Alsace-Lorraine)
  • Easter Monday (movable date)
  • May 1st: May Day
  • May 8th: VE Day
  • May 26th: Ascension Day
  • Pentecost (movable date and no longer an official holiday)
  • July 14th – Bastille Day
  • August 15th – Assumption
  • November 1st – All Saints
  • November 11th – Armistice Day
  • December 25th – Christmas
  • December 26th – St Stephen’s Day (only a holiday in Alsace-Lorraine)
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