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Court orders France to lift ban on religious services

France's highest administrative court has ruled that the government must lift a blanket ban on meetings at places of worship imposed as part of measures to combat the coronavirus.

After receiving complaints from several individuals and associations, the Council of State said on Monday that such a ban on freedom of worship caused “a damage that is serious and manifestly illegal”.

It told the government to lift the ban within the next eight days.

Under France's strict lockdown, places of worship were closed but when phase 1 of the lifting of lockdown began on May 11th places of worship were allowed to to reopen – but not hold services.

READ ALSO What changes in phase 1 of lifting lockdown?

 

The only gatherings permitted are funerals, which are limited to a maximum of 20 people.

But the Council of State ruled this ban was “disproportionate in nature.”

It remains to be seen what move the government will take to respect the decision while retaining a safe environment in churches, mosques and other places of worship.

Gatherings of more than 10 people in public places are still forbidden under phase 1 of the loosening of lockdown.

READ ALSO What are the rules on socialising as lockdown lifts?

Bruno Retailleau, who leads the right-wing Republicans in the upper house Senate, wrote on Twitter that the ruling was “good news for the freedom of religion” which is a fundamental right”.

One of the first coronavirus clusters in France was centred around an evangelical church event in Mulhouse, eastern France which went on to be the worst affected area in the country.

Member comments

  1. My family has belonged to the Roman Catholic Church for over 400 years. And I do NOT need to go to church to be a good Catholic. Yes, I love going to mass. And I also understand my obligations in regards to sacramemtals. But going to mass in no way influences my actions, I will always be a good Catholic and believe. I do not need to go to mass as a social function. Which for many that is what it has become. You can be a good devout Roman Catholic and NOT go to mass. Except at 1 time during the year, Easter. And every one of us missed that.

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COVID-19

New Covid wave in autumn ‘virtually certain’ say French experts

The head of the government's new health advisory body says that a surge of Covid cases when the French head back to work after the summer break is virtually certain.

New Covid wave in autumn 'virtually certain' say French experts

Immunologist Brigitte Autran, president of new government health advisory body the Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires (Committee to monitor and anticipate health risks) which has replaced the Conseil scientifique, told Le Parisien that “the Covid epidemic is not behind us” and said that the French would have to get used to “living with” the virus.

The Covidtracker website currently shows that the virus is in decline across France, with the R-rate currently at 0.7 – any figure lower than one indicates that the number of infections is falling.

Autran, whose appointment as head of the new body was confirmed on Wednesday, said that the most likely scenario was for a “new epidemic peak in the autumn”, when people return to work after the summer holidays.

“Will it be due to a new variant or the return of cold weather?” she said. “We are not soothsayers, but it is almost certain that there will be a wave.”

“Today, we must go towards living with it,” she added, reintroducing the French to an expression previously used by President Emmanuel Macron and several ministers.

“This does not mean accepting the deaths or the severity of the disease,” she went on, pointing to the fact that health authorities in France still have “levers to activate” to fight the virus. 

Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent (79.6 percent) of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said that, “unfortunately there are still too many people who have not been vaccinated or revaccinated.”

And she said the new body would work with the government to improve the public’s access to drugs, such as Paxlovid, and vaccines.

Vaccination is still open to anyone who has not yet had their shots, while a second booster shot is on offer to certain groups including over 60s, pregnant women, those with health conditions or people who are in close contact with vulnerable people.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

The French government in August voted to end to State of Emergency that allowed it to impose measures like travel bans and lockdowns, although further restrictions could be put in place if cases rise again and parliament agrees. 

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