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COVID-19

Cancelled weddings and fears for family – readers tell how France’s lockdown is affecting them

From cancelled weddings and interrupted house moves to fears for finances and family, our readers have been sharing their lockdown experiences.

Cancelled weddings and fears for family - readers tell how France's lockdown is affecting them
Lockdown has thrown up many practical and emotional difficulties. Photo: AFP

France has been on strict lockdown since March 17th with all non-essential journeys out of the home banned.

Large parts of the economy have been shut down, leaving many not working and fearing for the future of their businesses.

And while lockdown has undoubtedly been hard for everyone, living in another country – often far from family – and speaking another language add extra challenges.

Access to many areas including beaches is not allowed under lockdown. Photo: AFP

We asked our readers to share their experiences and found a great deal resolution and positive thinking alongside the stories of anxiety and hardship.

Economic woes

Financial hardship with the biggest problem that people faced – especially for those who are starting up their own businesses.

The French government has put in place a generous package of help for both employees and the self employed and small business owners, but the measures do not cover everybody with people either in the process of launching a business and those with a new business left unsure whether the measures apply to them.

The chômage partiel scheme for employees also does not apply to interns or people doing apprenticeships.

Deborah Petraitis, who lives in Toulouse, said: “I lost my apprenticeship, which was my only source of income.

“Because I am still a student I do not receive unemployment, and I do not receive help from my family. My apprenticeship was supposed to last six months and I had several projects that needed to be finished on time, I know now that the effort put into those projects are in vain.”

Self employed people said they were either not able to work or it was hard to find work, with Peter Smith saying simply: “Brexit was bad enough, but now there is no work.”

While people who have a new business were left unsure if they qualify for government help.

Cancelled plans

Many people have cancelled holidays, trips away or work projects but for others the cancellations were more major.

Katherine Roy, who lives in Centre-Val-de-Loire said: “My fiancé and I were planning on getting married in early June, and we are waiting to hear what exactly will be possible.

“We are hoping (at the very least!) the mairie will be open, even if it's just for a little ceremony with the witnesses, without any festivities afterwards. But making decisions such as these need concrete answers so we can communicate them to our guests.

“And first, we needed to accept that our carefully laid plans will be undone, which was an emotional process.”

While for others the lockdown has caused massive disruption to ongoing plans.

Jonathan Ashby, who now lives in Lot et Garonne, said: “My wife and I moved to France from the UK just one week before the lockdown.

“All our belongings and furniture are stuck in the UK as removal companies are not allowed into France.

“So we are living in an empty house with a bed made from old cushions and a fridge that doesn't get cold.

“Everywhere is closed apart from food shops, so it's not exactly the new life in France that we hoped for.”

Police check permission forms of drivers over the Easter weekend. Photo: AFP

Missing family and friends

As well as the practical aspects, there are also emotional impacts of the lockdown.

Many retirees, who have been relatively unaffected by economic problems, reported that loneliness and missing family members were the things they found most difficult about the current situation.

Lorraine Waliszak, who lives Brévilliers in Pas-de-Calais, said: “We are French residents and travel once a month to Surrey to see our daughter who is recovering from eye cancer – we are concerned what is being said about the strict border controls and we are desperate to see her.”

Lisa Maree, who lives in Paris, said: “I’d like to leave to be closer to family but there is so many unknowns particularly if you will be able to return.”

Judith Kearney, who is also in Paris, added: “Being away from family and not having many friends in France is the hardest part.

“I speak enough French to manage but often, especially in phone conversations, it is difficult for me to communicate, mostly to understand what others are saying.

“I live alone in a neighborhood new to me so I do not know anyone nearby.”

And many people also miss their friends and the social lives they enjoyed before the lockdown.

Peter Smith, who lives in Maine-et-Loire, said he missed “simply the fact that we can't just wander out and say hello to our friends, let alone share a meal, which we always took for granted.”

Kevin Green, of Toulouse, added: “Only having contact with shop workers is difficult. I miss my friends.”

Positive experiences

But while lockdown is undoubtedly a difficult experience, there were several people who managed to find a bright side, from those enjoying the clearer skies with less pollution to those who are seeing a significant fall in their monthly spending.

And while not everyone is enjoying télétravail (working from home) for others it has been a much more positive experience.

Angel Saver, of Lorgues in the Var département, said: “It has affected my work and me positively.

“I now telework 100 percent instead of my normal 60/40 office/telework.

READ ALSO What can we expect from Macron's TV speech on lockdown?

Emmanuel Macron's government was judged to be doing a good job by the majority of readers surveyed. Photo: AFP

“My work quality and output has improved because I don't have to rush to fit my work activities into a specified time within office hours. This has resulted in a better work/life balance for me as well as eight hours a week not spent commuting to the office anymore.

“I have more time with my family and am spending nothing on transportation costs (fuel/tolls/wear and tear on my car).”

Cecilia Caron in Paris agreed, saying: “Our entire company has moved completely online.”

Confidence in French government

And while French president Emmanuel Macron certainly has his critics, he can take comfort from learning that the majority of The Local's readers who responded felt that his government had done a good job.

When asked if they had confidence in the French government's response to the coronavirus epidemic, the majority of people said yes.

American readers, in particular, felt that the response compared well to that of the US.

Judith Kearney said: “I am from New York City. I think the situation as it has been handled here is far better than my home city. The restrictions may seem harsh to some, but I know that if NYC had acted the same way from the beginning, they would not be in the terrible state as now.”

Ariel Stone, who had been spending a three-month sabbatical in Paris, said: “So impressed with firm and proactive yet respectful approach. Comparing to US I am even more confident that the French government is doing a great job.”

However there was concern about the lack of masks, while some people called for more widespread testing.

We were not able to include everyone's answers, but thank you to all who took the time to fill out this questionnaire.

 

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COVID-19

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).

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