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French Prime Minister to unveil plan to ease lockdown: What can we expect?

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will on Tuesday present to parliament his detailed plan for gradually loosening France's strict lockdown, so what can we expect?

French Prime Minister to unveil plan to ease lockdown: What can we expect?
France's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will present his plan to parliament on Tuesday. All photos: AFP

Since President Emmanuel Macron announced on Easter Monday that France's lockdown will start to be lifted from May 11th, ministries have all been working on more detailed plans.

These have now been put together into an overall strategy that addresses 17 key points about lifting lockdown, from stimulating the economy to protecting the elderly.

This plan will be presented to the French parliament on Tuesday afternoon, after which it will be debated and voted upon.

So what can we expect?

Businesses

Like all countries, France is attempting to balance protecting its citizens with limiting the damage to its economy so one of the big things about May 11th will be the return of a lot more people to work.

It is expected there will be more details about which sectors or businesses types can return straight away.

We already know that cafés, bars and restaurants will not be reopening until later but many other tourist related businesses – such as gites and B&Bs where social distancing is possible – are still unsure when they can reopen.

READ ALSO When will France's bars, restaurants and tourism businesses reopen?

 

The Scientific Council advising the government has said that companies should, where possible, keep people working from home “for all or more than half of working time”.

The Council also recommends scrupulous social distancing in the workplace, suggesting that only part of the workforce is on site at any one time, to maintain distancing rules.

Staggered shifts or part time working could be required for larger companies.

Schools

This is probably the area we know most about after some detailed interviews with the education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer but some questions remain.

Schools will open gradually from May 11th, with certain classes going before others – see the full plan here.

Teaching unions have expressed concern over supplies of masks and hand sanitiser gel and although the minister says it is “highly probable” that masks will be compulsory, that has not yet been confirmed.

The Scientific Council also recommends extra provision for school transport, so pupils are less crowded.

Masks

At present masks are advised – although they are hard to get hold of – but not compulsory.

Both Macron and the Scientific Council have said that wearing masks should be “systematic' in public after May 11th, although they have stopped short of saying they will become compulsory.

However it's possible that they could become compulsory on public transport – both the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo and the head of the city's RATP transport network have requested this.

Travel

The Scientific Council says that travel between regions of France could be allowed, provided that public transport companies can ensure appropriate social distancing.

This echoes a statement from the president's Elysée Palace last week which said it was “working to ensure there would be no problem travelling between regions”.

There had been speculation that the restrictions would be lifted on a regional basis, but the president appeared to quash that idea, although local authorities will likely still have some leeway to react to local conditions.

The Council recommends that urban and suburban transport resume as normal as people go back to work and transport bosses on both the national SNCF rail network and the Paris public transport network have already laid out plans for a rapid increase in services from May 11th.

International travel

Travel into France from other countries is currently heavily restricted – an international travel certificate is required and only essential travel allowed – and it seems that may continue for some months yet.

The Scientific Council strongly discourages loosening restrictions before summer in order to “reduce the risk of reintroduction of the virus on national territory”.

However no more detailed timeframe has been suggested.

Various French ministers, in answer to questions about summer holidays in July or August, have advised French people not to plan foreign holidays.

However it is not known whether travel restrictions will remain in place for all journeys or for all types of transport.

France has its own domestic border restrictions but it is also part of an EU-wide ban on travel from outside the Schengen Zone – so discussions ongoing in Brussels will also affect travel into France from outside Europe.

READ ALSO When will I be able to travel to France again?

Over 70s and other vulnerable groups

A suggestion from Macron that the over 70s, people with underlying health conditions and others in high-risk groups should stay in confinement was greeted with outrage by many, and now seems to have been toned down to a voluntary confinement.

The Scientific Council advises a “strict and voluntary” confinement of those in high risk groups – which it categorises as people aged over 65, in contrast to earlier health measures which were aimed at the over 70s, and those with chronic conditions including hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

It said that people in those groups who work should be given the option of working from home or signing off on sick leave.

Macron has since called for “individual responsibility” in relation to vulnerable groups, but with no vaccine in sight and the over 65s making up nearly 90 percent of the deaths in France many may be faced with taking extra precautions for some time to come.

 

Exercise

The Sports Ministry has published a plan that includes restrictions on individual exercise such as jogging cycling and walking being lifted from May 11th, although it is not known whether the government has accepted this recommendation.

Local restrictions – such as the ban on daytime jogging in Paris – could be left in place.

Bars/cafés/restaurants

We already know that these will not be reopening from May 11th and ministers have previously said that a date for their reopening will not be announced until the end of May.

Business owners may have to be able to demonstrate that they can ensure social distancing can be respected before they are allowed to reopen.

Public gatherings and sports matches

It has always been clear that large public gatherings will be among the last things to return, and Macron has laid out a tentative date for this of mid July.

As well as festivals and concerts this also applies to sports matches, although some of the French sports federations are examining the possibility of restarting the season earlier, with matches played behind closed doors.

Attestations and fines

At present any trip outside the home needs to be accompanied by a signed, timed and dated attestation de déplacement dérogatoire – a certificate stating the purpose of your journey.

Anyone caught without one is liable to a €135 fine.

Whether this system, or a modified version of it, will continue after May 11th when more people will be out and about is not clear at this stage.

The French government has always been clear that the plan depends on the situation in hospitals.

At present the daily death tolls are falling, along with the number of hospital patients, but if these spike again the lockdown release could be paused or reversed.

 

 

 

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Life in France: 5 plants that (allegedly) repel mosquitoes

Summer in France brings lots of good stuff and some deeply annoying things, like mosquitoes. But did you know that there are plants that you can add to your garden or balcony that will repel these deeply unwelcome visitors?

Life in France: 5 plants that (allegedly) repel mosquitoes

If you’re one of these people who are attractive to mosquitoes then you’ll know the misery of spending the summer covered in itchy red lumps – and the bad news is that the rising global temperatures mean that ‘mosquito season’ in France now lasts longer.

It’s a common problem and in the summer French florists and garden centres often sell ‘anti-moustique‘ plants.

We’re not promising a 100 percent repellent rate, but these are some plants that apparently help.

In good news, most of them are small enough so that you can grow them on your balcony or in a window box if you don’t have a garden.  

Mint (menthe)

A common herb that many people might already have in their gardens, but mosquitoes apparently hate the lovely, fresh scent of mint.

And even if it fails to ward off the bugs, at least you can use the leaves to garnish food or make a nice big jug of Pimms (which might distract you from your horrible, itchy bites).

READ MORE: France’s most toxic plants and berries to watch out for

Marigolds (Rose d’inde, sometimes known as Souci)

These are a popular choice to add a touch of colour to a window box or balcony, as well as to a garden, and have the added benefit of warding off mosquitoes.

Gardeners like them because can boost the growth of other plants when planted together.

Rosemary (romarain)

Another aromatic herb that humans love and mosquitoes apparently hate.

If you’re planting it in the garden use a container because it has a tendency to spread and take over your garden. If you don’t want to grown it, or don’t have the space, you can always add a couple of sprigs to your grill when barbecuing to help keep the mosquitoes away as you dine outdoors.

Lemongrass (citronelle)

You’ll certainly be aware of citronella scent from various mosquito-repelling products including oils and candles, but you can also grow it in the your garden.

It grows quite big so might not be suitable for small gardens or window boxes.

Even if it doesn’t succeed in keeping insets away, you can use it in cooking to add a lemony flavour.

Wormwood (absinthe)

The final one on the list is usually said to be the most effective, but should be used with caution as it is toxic if eaten.

You can grow it in your garden or in a window box, but take great care that it doesn’t end up with your edible herbs as it will make you sick – if you have a garden when children or animals are present then it’s probably best to avoid this one altogether, but on the plus side its pungent scent will keep mosquitoes away.

As the French name suggests, wormwood is one of the main ingredients in the drink Absinthe and is what gives it the distinctive green colour.

Legend has it that wormwood is the active ingredient that makes people hallucinate after drinking absinthe, but in fact the drink is not hallucinogenic and never was. It is extremely strong though, which might explain some of those ‘visions’!

Other tips

Mosquitoes like to hang out and to breed in water or long grass, so you can help keep them away by eliminating their favourite spots. For example;

  • Keep lawns trimmed
  • Eliminate sources of stagnant water eg old plant pots that collect rainwater
  • Keep your gutters clear
  • If you have a pond consider installing a small fountain or pump, as mosquitoes usually won’t lay eggs in moving water
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