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HEALTH

UPDATE: Halt on French local authority’s alcohol ban during lockdown

A French local authority has been forced into something of a U-turn just 24 hours after banning the sale of alcohol during the coronavirus lockdown.

UPDATE: Halt on French local authority's alcohol ban during lockdown
Photo: AFP

The Préfet of the Aisne département in north east France on Monday announced that the sale of all alcohol to be consumed off the premises was banned during the coronavirus lockdown.

With bars, restaurants and cafés already closed, it effectively made the département dry for the rest of the lockdown period.

Ziad Khoury, who also stopped shops from opening after 8pm in the département, says he is concerned about the link between alcohol and violence, especially domestic violence.

 

He said: “Excessive consumption of alcohol is likely to create increased disturbances and violence, especially within the family.”

However 24 hours later – and following worldwide media attention and much dismay on social media – the préfecture announced that it was temporarily halting the ban in order to consult more widely, particularly with addiction specialists about the possible side effects of a ban.

 

The ban on shops opening after 8pm remains in place and joins many other local restrictions.

Local authorities in several areas have enacted extra restrictions on top of the national lockdown – many beaches are out of bounds, the walkways along the Seine are off limits and dozens of towns have imposed curfews during the lockdown.

READ ALSO These are the French towns that have imposed a curfew

Many campaigners across Europe have raised fears about people trapped with abusive partners during the lockdown.

If you are France, you can call 3919 for help, or the English-language helpline SOS Helpline provides emotional support on 01 46 21 46 46, between 5pm and 9pm.

 

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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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