UPDATE: Masks, tests and cycling – Paris mayor lays out plan for city after lockdown

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has detailed the measures to be taken in the capital as of May 11th, when France is to gradually lift its strict, nationwide lockdown.

UPDATE: Masks, tests and cycling - Paris mayor lays out plan for city after lockdown
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. Photo: AFP

She presented an earlier version of her plan to elected officials in Paris last week, and this has now been further detailed in an interview with French daily Le Parisien, published on Tuesday.

During the lockdown Paris has imposed extra restrictions on top of the national rules, bringing in a ban on daytime jogging and restricting access to areas including the Seine walkways and the Champs de Mars.

The socialist party representative's post-lockdown proposal aims to tackle the challenges of loosening restrictions while attempting to keep social distancing in the densely populated city.

These are the measures to be taken;
  • Free masks – the city has placed an order for 2.2 million washable fabric masks for citizens. As of May 11th, 259,000 of these will distributed in local mairies (town/ city halls) to citizens aged over 70 years old. After that, the rest will be handed out via the capital's pharmacies. To get a mask, you will need to sign up on the Paris City Hall website first (although the link is not yet live). Each mask can be used up to 20 times.
  • Masks not compulsory – Hidalgo told Le Parisien she “dos not have the legal means to make wearing them compulsory,” but asks “all Parisians to wear a face mask when on the street. Face masks are compulsory on all public transport under the national post-May 11th plan.
  • Hand gel – hand gel and soap dispensers will be installed in public facilities including public transport networks, Metro, bus, tram and Vélib' stations and in public spaces
  • Testing – a screening programme will be rolled out to all municipal employees, starting with those in public-facing roles.
  • Crèches – 200 of the capitals chrèches will reopen on May 12th, ensuring space for total of 4,400 children compared to 40,000 normally. From then on, services will gradually be increased, Hidalgo said. Each class will receive around 5 children each.
  • Schools – these will reopen gradually from May 11th across the country, but in Paris priority will be given to the children of essential workers. The capital is part of one of the worst hit regions in the country. As of May 14th, the city will broaden educational services to include children of RATP transport personnel, disabled children or those who “dropped out during the lockdown,” Hidalgo said. Priority would be given to the youngest, in maternelle (nursery), CP (6 year olds) and CM2 (10 year olds). 
  • Class sizes – Hidalgo said schools would restrict themselves to 10 pupils per class (less than the government's cap of 15), and “a little less in nurseries,” the mayor said. Paris would be able to take back around 15 percent of all Parisian pupils as of May 14th, she said. From thereon, the return would be progressive.
  • School cafeterias – will reopen. “We need to feed the children,” Hidalgo told Le Parisien. She underlined that it had not yet been decided whether children would eat in the cafeteria or in the classroom to best respect health rules.
  • Extra bike lanes – Hidalgo said: “The aim is to avoid a return to car use, whose emissions would aggravate the health crisis, and to limit the number of metro users as much as possible. We will encourage walking and cycling.” There will be extra temporary cycle routes, including along several of the main Metro lines, and park and ride facilities outside the city. “In total, 50km of routes usually reserved for cars will be given to cyclists,” Hidalgo said. Large stations like Les Halles will be made car-free to avoid queues and traffic bottlenecks. The map below shows the plan to make Paris more convenient for walkers and cyclists.


  • Support for the vulnerable – programme that help the most vulnerable such as food delivery services and accommodation for the homeless will continue after the lockdown starts to be eased. 
  • Support for businesses – Hidalgo said that whether the plan for supporting businesses throughout the lockdown would be prolonged until September was to be discussed in the Paris Council on May 18th. This plan includes “zero rent” and “zero tax” measures for restaurant, bar and café owners forced to close.
  • Shopping directory – the city has created and intends to expand an online directory of shops and markets that offer either home delivery or click and collect services in order to aid social distancing
  • Reopening of cafés, bars and restaurants – once the lockdown is lifted for the capitals bars, restaurants and bars too – not before June 2nd at the earliest – Hidalgo said the city of Paris would make sure that “they can work under satisfactory health conditions,” by reserving entire streets for their use. 
  • Taxes – Hidalgo said she would not increase local taxes in 2020.
  • Culture – A €15 million help fund will be given to the capital's cultural sector “at the end of lockdown,” Hidalgo said. “We will also work to organise a 'cultural summer',” she said. A plan was underway to organise for theatres, dance troupes and musical groups to be able to use the capital's open spaces. Hidalgo also said the city was working on organising the annual Nuit Blanche October night of cultural activities while “adapting to the health context.” She said she did not think the traditional summer event Fête de la musique could be maintained.
  • Municipal elections – “If the unwinding of the lockdown in the beginning of June goes well,” Hidalgo said, municipal elections should “not be the last thing to restate.” However, if the “health situation did not seem satisfactory,” local elections could be pushed to the beginning of September, she said.  The final decision, however, is one for the government
Presenting her plan to councillors, Hidalgo said: “Let there be no mistake: the hardest part is ahead of us.”
She paid tribute to healthcare workers as well as the “not so talked about” essential workers such as shopkeepers, cashiers, security guards, public transport employees and cleaners.
“They were there and thanks to them our city has held its own. They deserve our immense gratitude.”
Frontline healthcare workers will be given the honour of Citoyenneté d’Honneur de la Ville de Paris, honorary citizenship of Paris.

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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.