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LIFE IN PARIS

Paris police ban alcohol on canal and riverbanks after crowds gather on first day after lockdown

Paris police have banned the drinking of alcohol on the Seine walkways and the city's canal banks after mass gatherings had to be dispersed on the first day of the lifting of strict lockdown rules.

Paris police ban alcohol on canal and riverbanks after crowds gather on first day after lockdown
Drinking on the banks of the Seine is now banned. Photo: AFP

Monday, May 11th marked the first day of the lifting of strict lockdown rules and socialising was allowed again after 55 days – but only in groups of 10.

On the pleasant spring evening, people began to gather on the trendy Canal Saint-Martin and soon there were hundreds of people along the canal banks.

Police arrived and dispersed the groups, and later in the evening the Paris Préfecture de Police announced that from May 12th alcohol is banned on all canal banks and river banks in the city.

 

The ban had been requested by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who condemned “the irresponsibility of certain people's behaviour” in an angry tweet on Monday night.

 

Canal Saint-Martin, in the 10th arrondissement in north east Paris, is a regular hangout for young Parisians who mass there on summer evenings to enjoy drinks and picnics. 

 

Summer in the city usually sees hundreds of people gathered along the Seine banks or canal banks soaking up the sun and enjoying a cheaper night out, but this year looks like to be a little different.

READ ALSO What changes in phase 1 of lifting the lockdown?

Groups along the Canal Saint-Martin. Photo: AFP

The restriction on groups of more than 10 people lasts until at least June 2nd, and could be renewed, and the government has already said that 'mass gatherings' or more than 5,000 people will not be allowed until the end of August – or later if infections spike again.

France began on Monday to emerge from its lockdown, although many restrictions remain in place nationwide.

The government has divided France into green and red areas, with Paris and three other regions classified as red seeing a more limited relaxation of the lockdown.

Paris in particular still has a relatively high rate of infections and the Prime Minister has said that the capital is a concern.

Due to its status as a red zone, parks and gardens in Paris remain closed although they have been opened up in green zones.

READ ALSO Red and green départements – what is the difference?

There has been a steady downward trend in France's key coronavirus figures in recent days, although officials warn that caution is still needed and the risk of a second wave remains.

The senior French civil servant put in charge of the easing measures, Jean Castex, has warned that the lockdown could be reimposed if the number of cases surges again.

“In the absence in the short term of a vaccination or a treatment, the French population remains vulnerable to a resumption of the epidemic,” he wrote in his report for the easing of the lockdown.

“The possibility that the (easing) measures can be reversed…. must be anticipated by the authorities,” he added.

The health ministry urged people in its statement to wear masks in some situations in public and observe social distancing, saying: “The epidemic is still active and evolving.”

 

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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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