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HEALTH

Paris brings in extra health measures and makes face masks compulsory in certain zones

Authorities in Paris have announced extra health checks as well as an attempt to simplify the city's complicated rules on wearing masks outdoors.

Paris brings in extra health measures and makes face masks compulsory in certain zones
The previous mask rule has been widely criticised for being overcomplicated. Photo: AFP

The city of Paris was declared a 'red zone' on Friday as the number of new cases of Covid-19 being reported topped 50 per 100,000 people.

The designation gives local authorities in Paris extra powers to bring in new restrictions if they feel it necessary. The département of Bouches-du-Rhône, which contains Marseille, was also designated a red zone.

Now the Paris Préfecture de Police has announced extra checks, as well as new mask rules intended to simplify the rules on wearing masks outdoors, which had been widely criticised for being over-complicated.

Masks

Paris from August 10th has made wearing face masks compulsory in certain outdoor areas, in addition to the national rule that masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces.

 

However the Paris rule was restricted to busy areas only, and authorities released a list of 102 streets and parts of streets that it appeared residents were expected to learn.

After widespread complaints at the complication of the rules, the city has now attempted to simplify them by making masks compulsory in certain zones, including the city centre, the banks of the Seine and the Canal Saint-Martin, the Bassin and Parc de la Villette and the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne.

The new rule is in force from Saturday at 8am. Failure to comply with the rule attracts a €135 fine, but police say in the initial days they will be concentrating on educating people about the new rules before they begin issuing fines.

The zones include; the entire Paris-centre district, all the Seine quays, the Batignolles, Upper Caumartin, Saint-Denis, Sécrétan, the Bassin and Parc de la Villette, the Ourcq canal, butte de Chapeau Rouge, Place des Fêtes, Lower Belleville, Houdin-Oberkampf-Roquette, Bastille, Gare de Lyon, Bercy, the whole area of the French National Library, Italie-Choisy, Butte aux Cailles, Montsouris park, Porte d'Orleans and Porte Vanves, Gergovie-Froidevaux, Montparnasse, Place Monge, the lower Quartier latin, the Cité and Saint-Louis islands, Ecole militaire, Champ-de-Mars and the Eiffel Tower, Balard-Grenelle, Chaillot-Muette, the Champs-Élysées and Ternes and the Bois de vincennes and Bois de boulogne.

You can download the complete list of streets affected here.

 

The police have also clarified that the mask rules apply to joggers and all those 'practising a sporting activity' in those areas as well as pedestrians.

Outside the listed areas, the wearing of a mask is recommended if social distancing is not possible.

“If the epidemiological situation were to deteriorate again, the wearing of masks could become mandatory throughout the capital,” the police statement added.

Bars and restaurants

Police say they will be stepping up patrols at spaces open to the public “particularly bars, restaurants and their terraces, some of which generate large numbers of people in the evening and are sometimes accompanied by a relaxation of the respect of barrier measures”.

Paris' bars and cafés are now fully open but with hygiene measures in place such as compulsory masks unless you are seated at the table and restrictions on counter service. In practice it has varied how strictly owners enforce the rules, but police say they will now be making checks to ensure compliance.

Gatherings

Gatherings of more than 10 people will be allowed to continue for the moment – the current restrictions on gathering sizes is 5,000 – but could be banned again if compliance with barrier measures cannot be guaranteed, the police announced.

Public transport

Wearing a mask on all forms of public transport has been compulsory across France since May, but police in Paris say they will be stepping up enforcement of this with extra patrols in the Metro, buses and trams of the capital.

Health situation

The capital has been designated a 'red zone' because of the rapidly rising number of cases of Covid-19, although at present deaths remain low.

According to the Préfecture de Police, 600 new cases are reported every day in the Île-de-France region, of which 260 are in Paris. The percentage of tests coming back positive in Paris now stands at 4.14 percent – against a national average of 2.4 percent and 3.6 percent in the greater Paris region.

 The number of new cases is growing rapidly and now stands at 51 per 100,000 people, a sharp rise from 37 the previous week and 8 at the start of the month. Although the group with the largest number of positive tests is the 15-45 age group, there are also high levels in the 45-65 group, the préfecture added.

For the moment the red designation remains limited to the city of Paris and not the surrounding suburbs.

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HEALTH

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones. 

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