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LIFE IN PARIS

How Paris plans to loosen its lockdown restrictions

The French government is working on a gradual loosening of lockdown restrictions - but the densely populated city of Paris will present particular problems.

How Paris plans to loosen its lockdown restrictions
Photo: AFP

The city's mayor Anne Hidalgo has laid out the extra measures she wants to take to keep Parisians safe once the lockdown starts being gradually lifted from May 11th.

In his press conference on Sunday night, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe stressed that even after restrictions start to be gradually lifted from May 11th, social distancing measures will still be in place.

READ ALSO 'Living with the virus' – the plan for life in France after the lockdown

Masks could become compulsory on public transport. Photo: AFP

But in a city as densely packed as Paris, keeping at least 1m apart from people at all times is likely to prove challenging – particularly on packed rush hour Metro, buses and RER trains.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, speaking to Journal du Dimanche, has laid out the extra measures she thinks will be necessary for the city, on top of the government rules.

Local officials have already imposed stricter rules than the national ones, with a ban on jogging between 10am and 7pm and restrictions on access to areas including the Seine walkways and the Champs de Mars.

This is what she wants to enforce

Masks

Masks would be compulsory on all public transport. This may end up being government policy too – the health minister said on Sunday that it was “likely” – but if not, Paris would do it anyway.

Valérie Pécrresse, head of Île-de-France Mobilites, backed this, saying: “I have asked the government to make the wearing of masks compulsory on public transport at the time of the deconfinement.”

Hand gel dispensers

The mayor also wants to create a network of hand gel dispensers, particularly on public transport such as at bus and tram stops.

The buying of tickets directly on the bus is already forbidden – instead you buy tickets in advance or on an app – and passengers are asked to use the middle door where possible.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has been a champion of cycle routes throughout her term in office. Photo: AFP

Cycle lanes

The city's crowded Metro system is probably going to prove the most challenging area to respect social distancing in, even with masks and hand gel, so the mayor wants as few people as possible to use it.

Instead she plans to increase cycle lanes, particularly along existing Metro routes.

“I'm thinking of temporarily laying out routes above the busiest Metro lines so that people who feel safer on bikes can get around,” she told the paper.
 
“In concrete terms, we want to double lines 1, 4 and 13 by above-ground bicycle networks on the same routes.”

The mass transport strikes in France in December and January saw many people taking to their bikes as an alternative to public transport, and the mayor is hoping that some of them will revert to this once the city starts to go back to work from May 11th.

The Prime Minister has also asked that anyone who can work from home continues to do so in the months ahead.

The French government will present its more detailed plan for the loosening of lockdown at the end of April.

 

 

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COVID-19

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.

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