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‘Lockdown plans are ready’ – French Prime Minister lays out strategy to curb Covid-19 spread

France's Prime Minister Jean Castex said "this was the moment to intervene" to curb the rising spread of coronavirus across the French territory to avoid new rounds of lockdown.

'Lockdown plans are ready' - French Prime Minister lays out strategy to curb Covid-19 spread
Prime minister Jean Castex. Photo: AFP

Main points:

  • No nationwide lockdown, but localised lockdowns possible if situation requires
  • PM urged Paris authorities to issue extra rules on masks outdoors
  • France has reached 830,000 Covid-19 tests per week, with the goal of 1 million in September
  • Increase in cases not just due to more testing, “four times as many people are getting the virus today compared to last month”
  • Hospital rates increasing “slowly but surely”
  • People should “avoid family celebrations” and other group gatherings 

“We want to do everything to avoid a new lockdown, but the lockdown plans, those detailing the strictest measures, lie ready in the health ministry,” the Prime Minister said during a press conference on Thursday morning.

“We are in a period of epidemic growth,” Castex said.

France recorded 5,429 new cases 24 hours on Wednesday, a tally unseen since the peak of the first wave of infections in mid April.

The marked a continuation of the rapid spread of the virus, with the daily recordings of cases having risen from around 500 per day to over 5,000 per day in weeks.

'1 million tests'

France has ramped up its testing capacities since the country began to ease the nationwide lockdown in the end of May, from some 200,000 tests per week in early June to over 600,000 early August.

Now, Castex said the country had “one of the best testing capacities in the world,” issuing 830,000 tests per week, with a goal of 1 million in September.

Medical professionals have however expressed concern that laboratories lack the capacity to analyse the tests, leading to a time lag between the test and the results that they fear could cause further spread of the virus.

The prime minister said the hike in confirmed cases could not solely be attributed to Increased testing, as the positivity rate had risen to 3.7 percent, up from 3.6 last week and 2.2 earlier.

“Four times as many people are infected now compared to a month ago,” Castex said.

21 red zones

“..the virus is gaining in strength, and this is the moment to intervene,” Castex said.

Stressing that the country did not find itself in the same situation as in March and April, Castex said the numbers of patients being hospitalised were rising “slowly but surely” as well.

Around 800 people were admitted to the hospital every week for Covid-19 the past month compared to 500 a month earlier, the PM said.

“It's not an explosion, but it's a trend,” Castex said, adding that it was important to take measures to avoid a new period of exponential growth similar to that in March and April.

The number of “red zone” départements had risen from 10 to 21, Castex said. A “red zone” is the official designation signifying a high level of spread that gives local authorities extended powers to enforce restrictive measures such as closing down bars and restaurants or restrict access to public transport.

 

 
 
Paris, along with the Bouches-du-Rhône département, was among the areas already featuring of the list of “red zones”, and Castex urged local authorities to take measures to impose mask-wearing outdoors across the capital.
 
“I asked the police prefect to initiate a consultation with the mayor of Paris and the elected officials of the inner suburbs, where it seems urgent to act on mask-wearing,” Castex said.
 
 
700 mask-fines per day
 
Wearing a mask was already made compulsory on the streets of Nice and Marseille. Paris and its suburbs made masks compulsory in certain zones, but local authorities could enforce a blanket measure to facilitate policing of the currently slightly confusing rules.
 
Casted said police had so far done 30,000 checks and issued 700 fines per day to people defying the rules on masks.
 
Those breaking the nationwide rule on mask-wearing inside public spaces face a fine of €135. Fines for mask-wearing outdoors vary between municipalities.
 
“Wearing a mask is not always very simple. Keeping distance from others is not a spontaneous reflex. But let's face it together, these are not insurmountable constraints,” Castex said.
 
'Avoid family gatherings'
 
According to French public health statistics shown by the prime minister, “only 20 percent of coronavirus cases are traced back to a cluster.” That means that, while workplaces has been identified as the origin of the most clusters, it is not the main source of spread.
 
The prime minister said “most of the spread occur in private,” not public spaces, and asked people to refrain from gathering in large groups, including within the family, to avoid spreading the virus.
 
“Avoid family celebrations, respect health barriers within the family,” Castex said.

Reiterating the message repeated by President Emmanuel Macron at the end of the nationwide lockdown, he said: 

“We can learn to live with the virus.”

 

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid rules: Travelling abroad from France this summer

There's been plenty written on travel rules for people coming to France - but what if you live in France and have plans for international travel over the coming months? We've got you covered.

Covid rules: Travelling abroad from France this summer

France isn’t currently on the Covid red list for any country, so there is nowhere that is barred to you as a French resident, but different countries still have different entry requirements.

EU/Schengen zone

If you’re travelling to a country that is within the EU or Schengen zone then it’s pretty straightforward.

If you’re fully vaccinated then all you need is proof of vaccination at the border – no need for Covid tests or extra paperwork. Bear in mind, however, that if your second dose was more than nine months ago you will need a booster shot in order to still be considered ‘fully vaccinated’. 

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel to France from within the EU

If you were vaccinated in France then you will have a QR code compatible with all EU/Schengen border systems. If you were vaccinated elsewhere, however, your home country’s vaccination certificate will still be accepted.

If you’re not fully vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test at the border, check the individual country for requirements on how recent the test needs to be.

Bear in mind also that several EU countries still have mask/health pass rules in place and some countries specify the type of mask required, for example an FFP2 mask rather than the surgical mask more common in France. Check the rules of the country that you are travelling to in advance.

If you’re travelling to a country covered by The Local, you can find all the latest Covid rules in English on the homepages for Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland.

UK

The UK has no Covid-related travel rules, so there is no requirement for tests even if you are not vaccinated. The passenger locator form has also been scrapped – full details HERE.

Once there, there are no Covid-related health rules in place. 

If you’re travelling between France and the UK, remember the extra restrictions in place since Brexit.

USA 

Unlike the EU, the USA still has a testing requirement in place, vaccinated or not. You would need to show this prior to departure.

It has, however, lifted the restrictions on non citizens entering, so travel to the USA for tourism and visiting friends/family is once again possible.

For full details on the rules, click HERE.

Once there, most places have lifted Covid-related rules such as mask requirements, but health rules are decided by each State, rather than on a national level, so check in advance with the area you are visiting.

Other non-EU countries

Most non-EU countries have also lifted the majority of their Covid related rules, but in certain countries restrictions remain, such as in New Zealand which is reopening its border in stages and at present only accepts certain groups.

Other countries also have domestic Covid restrictions in place, particularly in China which has recently imposed a strict local lockdown after a spike in cases.

Returning to France

Once your trip is completed you will need to re-enter France and the border rules are the same whether you live here or not.

If you’re fully vaccinated you simply need to show your vaccination certificate (plus obviously passport and residency card/visa if applicable) at the border.

If you’re not vaccinated you will need to get a Covid test before you return and present the negative result at the border – the test must be either a PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours or an antigen test taken within the previous 48 hours. Home-test kits are not accepted.

If you’re returning from an ‘orange list’ country and you’re not vaccinated you will need to provide proof of your ‘essential reasons’ to travel – simply being a resident is classed as an essential reason, so you can show your carte de séjour residency card, visa or EU passport at the border.

Even if the country that you are in is reclassified as red or orange while you are away, you will still be allowed back if you are a French resident. If you’re not a French passport-holder, it’s a good idea to take with you proof of your residency in France, just in case.

Fully vaccinated

France counts as ‘fully vaccinated’ those who:

  • Are vaccinated with an EMA-approved vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson)
  • Are 7 days after their final dose, or 28 days in the case of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines
  • Have had a booster shot if more than 9 months has passed since the final dose of your vaccine. If you have had a booster shot there is no need for a second one, even if more than 9 months has passed since your booster
  • Mixed dose vaccines (eg one Pfizer and one Moderna) are accepted 
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