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HEALTH

Lyon latest to tighten restrictions as French cities increase local lockdown controls

Lyon has become the latest French city to announce local health restrictions - including banning the sale and consumption of alcohol in public spaces after 8pm - as Covid-19 cases rise.

Lyon latest to tighten restrictions as French cities increase local lockdown controls
Police in Lyon enforce the city's mask rules. Photo: AFP

France's strategy so far for the second wave of Covid-19 infections is to avoid a national lockdown and rather impose local restrictions where necessary.

With 55 départements now officially classed as 'red zones' several of France's biggest cities have been ordered by the government to come up with their own local restrictions.

MAP Where are France's 55 coronavirus 'red zones'?

So far none of these have been particularly far-reaching and no cities have reimposed lockdown, but here are the extra restrictions in place for different parts of France.

Lyon

The eastern French city was told on Thursday that it must tighten restrictions after a leap on the number of cases.

It has now announced several new measures, which will come into force on Tuesday, September 22nd.

They include:

  • A ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people (the national limit is 5,000)
  • Certain types of gathering including vide-greniers (yard sales) or funfairs are banned completely
  • Private gatherings of more than 10 people are discouraged (but not actually banned)
  • The sale and consumption of alcohol in public spaces is banned between 8pm and 6am.

 

Marseille

The densely-populated southern city of Marseille is one of the worst-affected places in France with high numbers of cases and increasing pressure on hospitals.

The authorities of the Bouches-du-Rhône département have introduced new restrictions for the city and some surrounding areas. They are:

  • A ban on gatherings of more than 10 people on beaches and in parks
  • A ban on any gatherings of more than 1,000 people 
  • Alcohol consumption in public spaces after 8pm is banned
  • All bars and restaurants must close at 12.30am 
  • Cancellation of the annual Journée du Patrimonie heritage events

Bordeaux

Bordeaux and the surrounding Gironde area, relatively untouched during the first wave of the epidemic, is now a cause for concern for the French government.

Its restrictions now include

  • A ban on gatherings of more than 10 people on beaches and in parks
  • A ban on any gatherings of more than 1,000 people 
  • Alcohol consumption in public spaces after 8pm banned
  • Drinking while standing in bars or cafés is banned
  • Bars can be closed immediately if their customers are seen breaking the rules
  • Private gatherings of more than 10 people are discouraged
  • Gatherings including vide-greniers and funfairs are banned

 

Paris

Although case numbers in the capital and its surrounding region are high, authorities deem the situation to not yet be so serious as to require extra measures.

However Parisians have been warned to tone down their socialising to avoid a repeat of the situation during the first wave which saw hospitals reach breaking point and critically-ill patients having to be sent to other parts of France.

Health minister Olivier Véran said: “The figures no longer leave any doubt: Family and social gatherings are massive sources of infection.

“Each and every one one of us plays a key role in the fight against the virus.”

Nice

The French Riviera city was also ordered on Thursday to come up with a plan for extra restrictions on a local level. These are;

  • A ban on any gatherings of more than 1,000 people 
  • Alcohol consumption in public spaces after 8pm banned
  • Bars and restaurants close at 12.30am
  • Nice football club is now playing its matches behind closed doors

Lille, Toulouse and Rennes

These cities have all reported high levels of new Covid-19 cases, but so far are not seeing the same pressure on hospitals that has lead to other cities being ordered to take extra measures. However, this could change if the number of new patients admitted into the cities' hospitals continues to rise.

Masks

In addition to the measures above, many local areas have brought in stricter rules on mask wearing.

The national rule says only that masks must be worn in indoor public spaces, but many local authorities – including virtually all of France's large towns and cities – have extended this to make masks compulsory on the street as well.

 

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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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