French government rejects Paris mayor’s call to reopen parks

The French government shot down a request by the Paris mayor on Tuesday to reopen parks and public gardens, a day after police had to disperse groups of people who had gathered on the city's canal banks on the evening lockdown was lifted.

French government rejects Paris mayor's call to reopen parks
Photo: AFP

Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter she had renewed a request to open parks and gardens closed since mid-March, “taking into account the needs of Parisians, because Paris is a very dense city”.

Access would be conditional on everyone wearing a face mask, which the mayor said should also become compulsory on the streets of Paris.

Her request came a day after some Parisians were seen gathering in public spaces laughing, hugging and sharing meals despite the government urging people to maintain social distancing to limit the spread of the virus.

On the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, police had to intervene to break up groups of people violating the rules – prompting a ban on alcohol on all of the city's riverbanks and canal banks.

France started cautiously lifting a strict two-month lockdown on Monday, but remains on high alert with heightened precautions in place in so-called “red zones” of the country – including Paris and the wider Ile-de-France region – where the virus remains active.

READ ALSO Discover France's final map of red and green zones for easing lockdown


These measures include keeping cafés, restaurants, bars, many schools, parks and gardens shuttered, and a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

Masks are compulsory on public transport nationwide, and for teachers, but not in other public spaces.

Health Minister Olivier Véran rejected Hidalgo's request to reopen parks, without referring to her bid to make masks compulsory.

“No, we will not open parks and gardens in Paris and in Ile-de-France, nor in the other regions classified as red” zones, the minister said.

“It can be all to tempting with the sun out, for people to gather in groups that are too large… and to not respect the social-distancing measures,” he said.

France has recorded over 26,000 deaths due to the coronavirus outbreak so far, with 263 new fatalities reported Monday.

And the country fears a second infection wave as businesses start reopening and people return to work.

READ ALSO How likely is a second wave of coronavirus cases in France?

The civil servant in charge of the plan for easing measures, Jean Castex, warned on Monday that “the French population remains vulnerable to a resumption of the epidemic.”

Some primary schools and day care centres in France reopened for the first time in weeks on Tuesday, and public transport was reinforced after reports of crowding on some metro and bus lines the previous day.

The government, meanwhile, has given the green light for municipal councils to meet for the first time and designate their mayors following March elections that were marked by record abstentions over coronavirus fears.

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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.