EXPLAINED: These are the rules of lockdown in France

With two government decrees and a host of local rules it's not easy knowing exactly what is allowed in France during the coronavirus lockdown.

EXPLAINED: These are the rules of lockdown in France
Falling foul of the rules could net you a €135 fine. Photo: AFP

France first went into lockdown on March 17th, but a week later a new decree was published tightening up the rules.

Since then numerous local authorities have introduced their own extra rules, from curfews to exercise restrictions to bans on access to certain areas.

Here's an outline of the rules.

Broadly, everyone should stay in their homes as much as possible and only venture out on essential errands.

Every time you go out, even if it's just round the corner to get a baguette, you need a signed, timed and dated permission form.

The principle of the rules is to have as few people out of their homes at any one time as possible, in order to give the virus fewer chances to spread.

But of course life essentials still need to continue and there are accepted reasons to be out of the house.


Everybody should be working from home if that is possible. Employers are obliged to organise home working and adapt their business practices if necessary.

But there are exceptions for those who have no choice but to go to the place of work if that work “can't be postponed”.

There is a special form to fill out for employees in this category, which can be found here (just below the first form, scroll down to “justificatif de déplacement professionnel”).

The form needs to be signed by your employer. 

Taking exercise

Following much confusion as to how far and for how long someone could exercise outside, the new decree has clarified and rendered more stringent the existing rules.

“Going out to take the children for a walk or for physical exercise must be within a distance of one kilometre maximum of your home, for one hour, and obviously alone, once a day,” Philippe said on Monday.

People are allowed to take individual physical exercise – such as going for a jog – or for a short walk in the company of people who live in the same house or to walk the dog is allowed.

Cycling for exercise is not allowed but it is still permitted to cycle to work or the shops.

In Paris, from April 8th, jogging will only be allowed after 7pm or before 10am.

Medical appointments

Following reports that too many people kept non-urgent doctor's appointments during the lockdown, the second decree limited all medical visits to those that “cannot be delayed” or “done from a distance.”

Urgent medical appointments like cancer treatments or a dialysis are therefore still allowed, but other less pressing medical visits that could either be postponed or rescheduled as online appointments are not.

Pregnancy care continues and women who need an abortion can still access one.

READ ALSO What if you have a health problem other than coronavirus?


Public transport systems are still running limited services, especially in cities. New rules specify that all travellers must enter buses from other doors than the one at the front. Tickets will no longer be sold on the bus.

All public transport must comply with strict rules on hygiene and all passengers must follow rules of “social distancing” (keeping at least one metre between themselves).


Deliveries are still allowed – indeed people are encouraged to shop online where possible – but there is to be no social contact between the person delivering and the person receiving, and packages are to be left outside the front door.

No one is to sign to state that they have received a delivery.

READ ALSO La Poste cuts deliveries to three times a week

Visiting family

All family visits that do not qualify as “vital” (for example providing urgent care to a child or older person) will not be allowed during the lockdown period.

Extra roadblocks were set up at the start of the Easter period to deter French people from going to visit family or second homes.

Legal appointments

The new decree also specifically lists visits that are responding to a legal conviction by French police, justice or public administration as valid reasons for leaving one's home.

This does not include civil matters such as buying or selling houses.

Open-air markets

While going out for grocery shopping will still be permitted, all open-air markets were banned from March 23rd.

However, in areas where markets fill an essential role, the mayor could ask to be exempt from the rule, the decree stated – providing that the markets gathered less than 100 people.

Many local authorities have been granted exemptions under this rule.

Bring your form – always

Every time you leave your home you need to fill in a form stating your errand. Each trip requires a new form. 

The form can be downloaded here. It has not been updated since the beginning of the lockdown, however it's possible that it will be seeing as this one specifically refers to the decree issued on March 16th (and not the new decree).

READ ALSO Lockdown permission form – how it works and where to find it

Anyone who does not have a printer can hand write their own version, including their full name, address, date of birth, plus reasons for travel. The form must be signed and dated that day. There is also now a smartphone version available.

Formal cards or passes from the medical profession and journalists will also be accepted in lieu of a form if people are out performing professional duties.

€135 fine

Any violation of the rules in the decree could lead to a fine of €135.

A second breach registered in the 15 days following the first breach will be punished with a €1,500 fine.

Anyone who breaks the rules four times in 30 days risk a €3,700 fine and up to six months in prison.

Local rules

The above rules are those stated in the national government decree, however many local authorities have brought in extra measures on top of the national rules.

Dozens of towns have put curfews in place, while access to beaches in certain areas is baned.

Paris has banned access to areas including the walkways along the Seine, the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne, as well as restricting exercise during the daytime.

Check your local préfecture for any restrictions in your area.


Member comments

  1. I am confused the article regarding the rules of lockdown in France suggest that you can go out with your children for work and exercise for one hour for 1km, alone. The next paragraph suggests that you can go out for exercise with people who live in your house with you. So am I allowed to go for a walk for exercise with my husband?
    kind regards Karen

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‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief.