What changes in France under phase 1 of lifting lockdown?

As France moves into the first phase of lifting its lockdown, what exactly can people do that they couldn't do during the last 8 weeks?

What changes in France under phase 1 of lifting lockdown?
Photos: AFP

Monday, May 11th marked the first day of phase 1 of the lifting of the strict lockdown that has been in place in France since March 17th.

But this is a gradual process and many restrictions remain in place. Phase 1 lasts until June 2nd, but at any stage restrictions could be reimposed if cases spike and there is already a 'reconfinement' plan drawn up to re-impose lockdown if the situation deteriorates.

So what extra things can people in France do during phase 1?

More people are now commuting to work, albeit under strict conditions. Photo: AFP

Chuck out the forms

This is probably the biggest difference – for the eight weeks of lockdown every trip out of the home required filling out an attestation (permission form) first. But now forms are only needed for people travelling on public transport in Paris during rush hour or travelling more than 100km from their homes.

You can also now take trips outside the home in the company of a partner, neighbour or friend.

Go back to work

People who can work at home should continue during phase 1, but for some people whose jobs cannot be done from home, work restarted on May 11th. However many types of business including cafés, bars and restaurants will stay shut.

Travel (within France and up to 100km)

The scope for travel has also widened considerably, whereas before only essential trips outside the home were permitted there is now no restriction on shorter trips and these can be undertaken for any reason.

Anyone who wants to travel more than 100km can do so only for essential reasons and needs a permission form and the government is still asking people to keep their travel to a minimum in order to limit the spread of the virus.

Health minister Olivier Véran said on Sunday: “If you live in an area where the virus is actively circulating, you should not travel to areas where the virus does not circulate since, by definition, that is where you run the risk of spreading the virus more widely.”

If you are travelling on public transport a mask is compulsory.

Shops are reopening. Photo: AFP

Go shopping

Essential shops such as supermarkets, boulangeries and wine merchants remained open throughout the lockdown, but from May 11th a wider range of shops will be open. It is now possible to do a little clothes shopping, browse in a bookstore or buy flowers for loved ones to apologise for all those rows during lockdown.

However shops will still have measures in place to ensure social distancing is respected and businesses have the right to require their customers to wear masks.

Get a haircut

Good news for anyone who looks like Robinson Crusoe after two months of no access to haircare professionals – hair salons can reopen. However, there are strict rules in place to ensure social distancing, including a requirement for all customers to wear masks. Hairdressers are operating on an appointment basis only.

Socialise or date

Bars, cafés and restaurants are still shut, but socialising in groups of 10 or less is now allowed, so going round to see your mates or family members is back on the cards and dating is also now allowed.

However after crowds gathered on the evening of the first day of lockdown lifting, drinking on the banks of the Seine or the Paris canal banks is now banned.

However the government is still advising – although not ordering – people over 65 and in high risk groups to stick to the principle of social isolation and suggests that people do not risk elderly or vulnerable grandparents.

For funerals, a group of 20 people is allowed.


During lockdown, exercise was strictly limited to individual activity for one hour a day within 1km of the home. This restriction has now been lifted, but not all types of exercise is allowed again. Individual exercise is allowed with no time or distance restrictions (apart from the limit of 100km from your home if any ultra-runners are reading) and cycling for exercise purposes is allowed again.

Team sports are still not permitted, although golf and tennis are allowed, and sports centres and gyms will remain shut.

The walkways of the Seine have reopened so you can go and look at the Eiffel Tower, but not climb it. Photo: AFP

Get some culture

Many cultural sites will remain shut, but there will be some reopening – bookshops are allowed to reopen as are smaller museums and galleries where it is possible for people to practice social distancing. Tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower remain closed, but in Paris the walkways along the Seine have reopened if you fancy a stroll (not not a drink – see above).

Go to the countryside

City dwellers can now travel to get a little fresh air and green space with a walk in the country and forests are now reopened.

Gites and B&B businesses that can respect social distancing are also permitted to reopen for people venturing further afield, although it should be noted that the Prime Minister advises “now is not the time for weekend trips”.

However in cities and towns, parks and gardens will reopen only in green zones.

Send (some of) the kids back to school

Schools are reopening very gradually from May 12th, with only some primary and infant classes accepting pupils at first.

Secondary schools will reopen from the end of the month, and only in green zone, and all classes will be smaller than usual. Parents have the final choice over whether to send their children back to school once it reopens.


Member comments

  1. In my region; still far too many people are taking a cavalier attitude to their own and, more importantly, others’ safety.

    Those without concern for others – not wearing masks, gloves, or paying attention to distancing themselves – are in a significant majority. Their irresponsibility is beyond words and I wish these selfish individuals would recognise that THE VIRUS HAS NOT GONE AWAY. It kills for fun – but it’s not a joke. It needs only one chance to infect and potentially kill countless others.

    Their utter selfishness is endangering everyone they meet. It could be you.

    Until it is eradicated or, at least, fully under control; I shall be keeping an extremely low public profile and maintaining a ‘red alert’ approach to others.

    To do otherwise is, in my opinion, handing a hostage to fortune.

  2. I agree with the previous comment. The same is happening in Nice Ville. Masks are worn though mostly not properly but no social distancing. I don’t understand that as social distancing is the key to wiping out the virus. Walking is now become a obstacle course to avoid people. Please stay safe and keep others safe

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Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

Experts have warned of a particularly bad flu epidemic this winter in France due to a combination of lowered immune systems and 'vaccine apathy' - urging high-risk groups to get their shot as soon as the flu vaccination campaign begins in October.

Experts warn of high levels of flu in France this winter

France’s annual flu vaccine campaign will officially get under way on October 18th this year – and medical experts have warned that this year’s season may be a bad one amid fears of “vaccine apathy”.

When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters in France this autumn

Immunologist Alain Fischer, who chaired France’s Conseil d’orientation de la stratégie vaccinale throughout the Covid-19 pandemic said that the high number of flu cases in Australia and the southern hemisphere in its winter were “a warning sign” that this winter’s flu, coupled with rising cases of Covid-19, could lead to a sharp rise in hospitalisations again in the winter.

“For two years, influenza has been kept at bay, thanks to the barrier measures we have put in place against Covid,” he told Le Parisien. 

“This year, it will be difficult to maintain the same level of protection: masks, distancing, intensive hand washing … Faced with this relaxation, there is a serious risk of flu epidemic.”

Between two million and six million people contract flu every winter in France. The infection is responsible for between 4,000 and 6,000 deaths every year, usually among people aged 65 and over. But in ‘bad’ flu years, that mortality figure can rise rapidly.

READ ALSO When, where and how to get flu shots and Covid boosters this autumn in France

The country, meanwhile, is at the start of what is being described as an “eighth wave” of Covid, and the Haute Autorité de santé recommends the eligible, vulnerable people ensure they are vaccinated against both viruses as early as possible. “A Covid-flu cohabitation is not a good thing,”  Fischer said. “It is synonymous with a very high number of hospitalisations. 

“Hence the objective of two strong vaccination campaigns – Covid and flu – especially for the most vulnerable.”

“The double injection is very good, and practical for patients. But I think that we should not wait, especially vulnerable people. It is a mistake to think that you will get your Covid booster when the flu vaccine is here – the Covid jab should not be delayed.”

Currently less than 40 percent of people eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine have received their latest dose.

Dual-strain Covid-19 vaccines designed to combat both delta and omicron variants will be available in France from October 3rd.

READ ALSO France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

“It is quite possible to get your Covid injection in early October and flu vaccine in late October – you will need both anyway,” Fischer said.

The Haute Autorité de Santé recommends influenza vaccination for the following groups:

  • people aged 65 and over; 
  • people with chronic diseases; 
  • pregnant women;
  • people suffering from obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m 2 );
  • Infants under 6 months at risk of serious influenza;
  • Families and others close to immunocompromised people; 
  • home help workers caring for vulnerable individuals.

For anyone in these groups, the flu vaccine is 100 percent covered by health insurance and delivered free of charge to the pharmacy, on presentation of a voucher.