IN PICTURES: France prepares to lift its lockdown

From Monday, May 11th France will begin the first phase of lifting the country's strict lockdown, and preparations are well underway.

IN PICTURES: France prepares to lift its lockdown
The owner of a hairdressing salon in La Bassée near Lille sticks delimiting tape to the floor to ensure social distancing. Photos: AFP

France has been on lockdown since March 17th with a strict 'stay home' policy, but that starts to change on May 11th.

Across the country, French workers are preparing for the 'new normal' and the strict cleanliness and social distancing measures that are necessary for this to happen, such as the bus company employees seen below installing stickers to remind passengers of the safe distance they must keep between each other and the mandatory use of masks on public transport. 

IN DETAIL France's plan for lifting the lockdown from May 11th

The loosening of restrictions will be slow and gradual, and this is only the first phase, but from Monday shops and businesses can reopen, and some school classes will start to go back. Below is a photo of a school classroom in Marseille being tested and cleaned.

People will no longer need a permission form every time they leave the house, but the form will still be needed for journeys of more than 100km. Public transport, which has been running a skeleton service during the lockdown, will expand services from Monday.

Journeys of more than 100km will be allowed for essential purposes only, but people are in general asked to keep their travel to a minimum with the Prime Minister saying “now is not the time for a weekend trip”.

Trains will be running on limited services still although national rail company SNCF is gradually ramping up the number of trains running every day. Only half of the seats per train will be up for sale to comply with security rules of social distancing.

The same is the case for local transport services, with Paris rail company RATP gluing stickers on seats to remind people to keep every other seat open.


Ahead of the reopening, businesses are preparing for operating under new conditions, making sure everyone respects social distancing and with extra hygiene measures in place.

Hairdressers will be permitted to open from Monday, but with strict rules in place.

Masks are on sale now, and from Monday will be compulsory on public transport and in some workplaces and shops. Anyone wanting a haircut will also need to wear a mask.


But many things will not change – bars and cafés will stay closed and anyone who can work at home should continue to do so. So this man in Givors, near Lyon, and his cat may have to stay indoors counting the days until June 2nd, when the next phase begins.





Member comments

  1. Masks are on sale now….. not yet in my area, they are supposedly on order….but not yet delivered….not available at our mairie, LeClerc or pharmacie.

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Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

With travel opening up, many people are planning trips to France over the next few months, but the Covid pandemic has not gone away. Here are your questions answered on testing, isolation and medical treatment if you do fall sick while on holiday.

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

Travel rules

Covid-related travel rules have mostly been relaxed now but you will still need to show proof of being fully vaccinated at the French border. If you are not vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test – find the full breakdown of the rules HERE.


Once in France if you develop symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive you will need to get a Covid test.

The good news is that testing is widely available in France, both for residents and tourists.

The easiest way to get a test is head to a pharmacy, most of which offer the rapid-result antigen test on a walk-in basis Tests are available to everyone who wants one, there is no need to fulfill any set criteria.

For full details on how to get a test, and some handy French vocab, click HERE.

The difference for tourists is that you will have to pay for your test, while residents get their costs reimbursed by the French state health system.

In the pharmacy you may be asked for your carte vitale – this is the health card that residents use to claim refunds. As a tourist you won’t have the card – you can still get the test, you will just need to pay for it. Costs vary between pharmacies but are capped at €22 for an antigen test or €54 for a PCR test.


If your test is positive you are legally required to isolate, but how long your isolation period is depends on the your vaccination stats – full details HERE.


For most fully-vaccinated people without underlying health conditions the symptoms of Covid are fairly mild, but if you do become ill, here’s how to access medical help while in France.

Pharmacy – one of the first things you will notice about France is that pharmacies are everywhere, just look out for the green cross. As well as selling over-the-counter medication, pharmacies all have at least one fully-qualified pharmacist on the staff who can offer medical advice. 

Take advantage of pharmacists – they train for at least six years so they’re very knowledgeable and they’re easy to access by simply walking into the shop. In tourist areas it’s likely that they will speak English. Pharmacists can also signpost you to a nearby doctor if you need extra help.

Doctors – if you need to see a doctor, look out for a médecin généraliste (a GP or family doctor). There is no need to be registered with a doctor, simply call up and ask for an appointment if you need one. If you have a smartphone you can use the medical app Doctolib to find a généraliste in your area who speaks English. You will need to pay for your consultation – €25 is the standard charge and you pay the doctor directly using either cash or a debit card.

You may be able to claim back the cost later on your own health/travel insurance depending on the policy.

Ambulance – if you are very sick or have difficulty breathing you should call an ambulance – the number is 15. All non-residents are entitled to emergency treatment in France, whether or not you have insurance, but if you are admitted or have treatment you may need to pay later.

READ ALSO Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Paxlovid – several readers have asked whether the Covid treatment drug Paxlovid is available in France. It was licenced for use in February 2022 and is available on prescription from pharmacies, mainly for people with underlying health conditions or an impaired immune system. You can get a prescription from a medical practitioner.

The drug is reimbursed for French residents, but as a tourist you will have to pay.