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HEALTH

How to enjoy the holiday weekend within France’s rules for lockdown phase 1

There's a holiday weekend coming up and many people are planning activities or trips away - but make sure you don't fall foul of the rules of phase 1 of déconfinement.

May is a good time for public holidays in France, with three falling in the same month. But this year the May 1st and VE Day (May 8th) holidays had limited options for fun, coming as they did when France was still under strict lockdown.

Thursday, May 21st marks the Christian holiday of Ascension and as France is now in phase 1 of lifting its lockdown a long weekend trip away is possible – with limits.

Trips away

Although people are now freer to travel, journeys of more than 100km can only be undertaken for essential travel and require a permission form.

READ ALSO How does France's 100km rule work?

Many beaches will have extra restrictions this weekend. Photo: AFP

Since the 100km rule was introduced on May 11th police have carried out more than 200,000 traffic stops and 950 people have been fined for travelling further than is allowed – so any trips away need to be kept a little closer to home this year.

Beaches

If you live within 100km of a beach you could have a trip to the seaside as many beaches are reopening – click here for a region-by-region map of the opened beaches.

But here too there are rules – you must be 'dynamic' on the beach, say French authorities. Fortunately this isn't a character trait – people may go to the beach if they keep moving so running, walking and swimming are fine but static activities like sunbathing, picnicking or reading a book are not.

Mayors of seaside town are concerned about the possibility of crowds and many have introduced extra controls or reduced opening of the beaches over the holiday weekend.

The mayor of Les Sables d'Olonne, a popular seaside resort on the Vendée coast, told BFMTV: “The proximity of the seashore sometimes makes you lower your guard.

“Social distancing, timetables, the wearing of masks… These are not necessarily constraints that you want to live with when you come to the holiday destination.”

He has decided that the beach will be closed at certain times to avoid a build-up of crowds.
 
“This is going to be a test. Two and a half hours before high tide, we'll sound a beep and we'll ask the public to leave the beach. We've never done this before, it's a first for us.”
 
Many other mayors of seaside towns have told local media about extra patrols and closures on their beaches.
 
Parks and gardens

Forests have reopened and if you live in a green zone you can go to the park and across the country smaller museums and tourist sites are also reopening. Bars, restaurants and cafés remain closed although some are now offering takeaway services.

Large groups will be broken up by police. Photo: AFP

Social gatherings

But wherever you go, you also need to take care with crowding as police have said they will be breaking up any crowds that get too large.

You are allowed to meet with groups of 10 or fewer in public spaces but police in Paris have been breaking up crowds that had become too large in popular areas such as the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin and the steps of Sacre Coeur. 

READ ALSO What are the rules on social gatherings under phase 1 of lockdown?

If you prefer to stay home you can now invite friends or family round for dinner or drinks – the Constitutional Court struck down the original rule that limited private gatherings to 10 people so there is now no limit on the size of gatherings as long as you are in a private residential space.

Health advice

But if your friends or family are over 65 or in a vulnerable group the advice is still to avoid visits, for their own protection.

France's Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon in his Tuesday night briefing said that those in vulnerable groups – which are people aged over 65 or those with risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, respiratory conditions including asthma or a suppressed immune system – should continue to avoid contact as much as possible with others, work from home if possible, avoid public transport and not receive visits from family or friends.

He added that if people in those groups do have visitors they should avoid physical contact, particularly with children, wear a mask, wash their hands and clean all surfaces that visitors touch after they leave. 

As ever, people are asked to continue to follow hygiene advice, respect social distancing, wear masks when necessary and wash hands regularly.

 

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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