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CULTURE

French government defends allowing theme park’s 9,000-person show

The French government has defended a decision to allow a theme park to stage a show attended by up to 9,000 people, after critics blasted the move as wildly irresponsible and hypocritical due to the coronavirus epidemic.

French government defends allowing theme park's 9,000-person show
The Puy du Fou historical theme park in western France. Illustration photo: AFP

The Puy du Fou historical theme park in western France was given an exemption by local authorities to allow the show with up to 9,000 spectators, even though the number of people permitted to gather in France is limited to 5,000 due to social distancing rules.

The controversy is even more acute given that the park's founder Philippe de Villiers, a former culture minister and ex-MP, is according to French media on friendly terms with President Emmanuel Macron.

Participants in France's cultural scene, ravaged by the coronavirus and ensuing restrictions, have expressed outrage that the weekend event was allowed to go ahead when major summer festivals were cancelled.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot, however, denied that the Puy du Fou, which attracts millions each year with its mediaeval and history-themed attractions, had received special treatment.

Local authorities have the power to grant exceptional permission for gatherings of more than 5,000 people.

“I understand the emotion and the anger of the professionals and the artists who had to cancel their activities and it is a real heartbreak,” said Bachelot, quoted by Le Parisien website late Sunday.

But, “the park of Puy du Fou did not benefit from any special privilege,” she insisted.

Prime Minister Jean Castex last week extended a ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people until October 30th.

The measure has already cost France some of its top summer cultural festivals including Avignon theatre festival and the Vieilles Charrues music event.

On Friday, the local authorities in the Vendée region of western France issued a decree allowing the Puy du Fou to welcome up to 9,000 people for its Cinescenie theatrical show on Saturday.

The Cinescenie is the park's summer showpiece, a spectacular historical show with fireworks and hundreds of actors and horses.

“These are double standards! In these times of major crisis for events, concerts, sports and nightclubs it is even more unbearable to witness!!”, tweeted prominent French show business promoter Pascal Negre, a former president of Universal Music France and former vice-president of Universal Music International.

 

“It's incomprehensible”, Jean-Michel Ribes, director of the Parisian Rond Point theatre, told Europe 1 radio.

“I think that there will be a real question for the government and it will need to answer it and explain,” he added.

Bachelot said that in the coming days she would receive representatives of the cultural sectors most impacted by the virus and resultant lockdown.

“We have a feeling of being abandoned,” said Aurelie Hannedouche, of the SMA union of modern music.

“Irritated, alone, fed up, that's what we feel: we are the only sector that has not got back to business,” she added.

The Puy du Fou, France's second-most popular theme park after Disneyland, welcomed over 2.3 million visitors in 2019. It reopened its doors on June 11th following the coronavirus lockdown.

Member comments

  1. All to do with money and connections. It’s exactly the same with allowing the Tour to go ahead. Totally irresponsible. Surely to stop these “events” for just one year isn’t beyond reason?

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The government’s Covid vaccine adviser Alain Fischer told France Info that he was in favour of making face masks compulsory on public transport again and said it is ‘being discussed” at government level.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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