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HEALTH

UPDATE: When will France’s elderly and vulnerable be released from lockdown?

As president Emmanuel Macron laid out the roadmap to end the country's strict lockdown there was one exception - the elderly and vulnerable, who total around 18 million people. But how long do they face confinement?

UPDATE: When will France's elderly and vulnerable be released from lockdown?
Elderly and vulnerable people could be facing lockdown for some months yet. Photo: AFP

France's nationwide lockdown has been extended until May 11th, but after that there will be a slow and gradual loosening of restrictions.

As schools and businesses reopen followed, at a later date, by bars and restaurants, many people are looking forward to resuming normal life.

READ ALSO Here's how France plans to end its coronavirus lockdown

But there's an exception to this – the elderly and vulnerable, as Macron said in his speech: “We will ask the most vulnerable people, the elderly, the severely disabled, the chronically ill, to remain confined even after May 11th, at least initially.”

So what does this mean for people in those categories?

Who is affected?

Macron didn't actually mention an age in his speech, but generally measures aimed at les personnes âgées have meant anyone over 70.

People with a severe disability or a serious chronic health condition such heart disease, diabetes or cancer are also included in the most vulnerable category.

Although obesity is also recognised as a risk factor in France, the general advice at present seems to be that only those who are both obese and have an existing medical condition should be considered vulnerable.

In France, 78 percent of coronavirus deaths have been people aged over 70 and 60 percent of patients in intensive care are 70 or older, so the illness has a clear bias towards the over 70s.

Of the 17,000 deaths reported in France, roughly 11,000 have been in hospitals and 6,000 in Ehpads – nursing homes for the elderly and ill.

France's elderly and vulnerable population is estimated to total around 18 million people.

What will the restrictions be?

It's not clear at this stage. In his speech Macron said “we will ask” rather than “we will order” so it's possible that extra restrictions could be voluntary.

On Friday April 17th the Elysée made it clear in a statement to French media that Macron did not want to discriminate against  elderly people and would call on the “individual responsibility” each person.

Macron apparently asked the Elysée to send out the statement as the debate began to rage in France over whether it would be legal or indeed beneficial to confine vulnerable and elderly people to their homes for even longer.

There was also a fierce debate developing over what the age limit would be.

Before the strict lockdown began on March 17th, the over 70s and the vulnerable had already been advised to stay at home, although there were no checks and no attestations at that stage.

The lockdown in general will be a gradual loosening of restrictions, so even after May 11th there will still be plenty of controls in place for everyone.

The broad outline of the plan is to open schools and businesses through May, bars, restaurants and cafés in the early summer and then restart public events from mid July – although this all depends on the situation in hospitals and whether it worsens after the first loosening of restrictions.

Ministers are drawing up more detailed plans which are expected to be presented over the next fortnight.

How long will the elderly be asked to remain at home?

Again, there is no definitive answer to this – the question that everyone wants answering.

Jean-François Delfraissy, chairman of the scientific council on the coronavirus that advises the government, spoke before the French Senate on Wednesday.
 
Delfraissy, who at 71 falls into a vulnerable category himself, said: “We will have at the exit of the lockdown 18 million people who are at risk of being infected and of developing a severe form of coronavirus.
 
 
For these 18 million people “we will continue the lockdown. Under what conditions, for how long, I don't know.
 
“While waiting perhaps for a preventive drug,” he added.
 
And it's not only France that is thinking along these lines.
 
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, writing in the German daily paper Bild, called for there to be some restrictions on contacts with elderly people until the end of the year.

 

Member comments

  1. I’d be happy to go home to u.s after 7 weeks of “confinement” but not sure I’ve got the paperwork to get out!

  2. We arrived here with long term visas on 13 th Feb and only have that initial paperwork
    Is that sufficient ?
    We have rented a place in til June 25

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POLITICS

‘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. 

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