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HEALTH

IN DETAIL: New Covid-19 restrictions in the 12 ‘high risk’ French cities

As the Covid-19 situation in France continues to deteriorate with hospitals coming under increasing pressure, local authorities in 12 cities labelled as 'high risk' - including Paris - have published details of extra restrictions.

IN DETAIL: New Covid-19 restrictions in the 12 'high risk' French cities
Bars in Paris and 10 other French cities will be closing early. Photo: AFP

Paris and the petite couronne (Seine-Saint Denis, Val-de-Marne and Hauts-de-Seine) are among 12 areas have been declared areas of heightened risk or maximum risk on the government's new alert scale.

EXPLAINED How does France's new Covid-19 alert system work?

The government announced the measures on Wednesday, but the fine details of the restrictions are the responsibility of local authorities to thrash out.

Paris

Local authorities in Paris and its suburbs published their full plans over the weekend – here are the details.

 

From Saturday, September 26th

  • All gatherings of more than 1,000 people are banned
  • Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned in public places including parks, gardens and the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne. 
  • The 10-person limit also applies to private gatherings including weddings, yard sales and vintage markets. It does not apply to public transport or to funerals. Demonstrations or marches do not fall under the 10-person limit, but must be declared in advance to the authorities. Food markets can continue under the strict hygiene conditions that have been in place since June.
  • All sports clubs and gyms are closed. The exceptions to this closure are school and after-school sports and open-air sports facilities and open air pools. Professional sports clubs can continue training.
  • Contrary to earlier reports, swimming pools in Paris can stay open, with strict hygiene conditions. Paris' deputy mayor in charge of sports Pierre Rabadan, says he has also requested an exemption for children's sports clubs to continue. 

From Monday, September 28th

  • All bars must close at 10pm and remain closed until at least 6am. Restaurants are not affected by the closure. There has been some debate about what constitutes a bar and what is a restaurant, as the majority of bars and cafés in Paris do sell food. In their order the police have defined a bar as an establishment that holds only a IV category licence (to sell alcohol without food). The majority of Paris restaurants and cafés hold licences to sell alcohol with or without food – see more here. The health minister Olivier Véran justified this distinction by saying that customers in restaurants tend to stay seated and distanced. Authorities in Seine-Saint-Denis and Val-de-Marne have clarified that shisha bars will also be affected by the early closure rule.
  • The sale and consumption of alcohol in public places is also banned between 10pm and 6am, so drinking in areas such as the banks of the Seine or the Canal-Saint-Martin – popular hangouts in good weather – will also be banned after 10pm.
  • Playing music in a public place, or in a place audible to the public, is banned between 10pm and 6am.
  • A ban on 'events of a festive or recreational character' including wedding receptions, students parties, festivals or organised gatherings in hired locations. Events of a cultural nature remain allowed, and the ban does not affect cinemas, museums or theatres which already have their own strict rules in place.

The restrictions are all in place for an initial period of 15 days – so restrictions that begin of Saturday last until October 9th and restrictions that begin on Monday last until October 11th – but they could be extended.

What happens after then depends on the Covid-19 situation and the risk level that the national government places Paris on. Risk levels are decided based on the number of new cases being reported and the situation in hospitals in the areas. 

Paris police chief Didier Lallement added that officers would be on patrol in the city and surrounding suburbs to enforce the new restrictions, and fines would be issued for non compliance.

Restrictions in other cities

Paris and its suburbs are among the 11 areas in heightened alert along with the metropoles of Lyon, Lille, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Rennes, Rouen, Saint-Etienne, Toulouse and Nice.

The metropole area is a city and its surrounding suburbs and urban area.

EXPLAINED How the French government's new Covid-19 alert system works

Areas on heightened alert (red on the government's maps) must introduce a series of measures which the government has laid out the framework for, but local authorities can adapt the fine details to local conditions – for example bars must close by 10pm, but local authorities can impose an earlier closing time if they wish.

Restrictions mandated for red areas are;

  • Maximum of 10 people gathering in public places
  • Ban on events such as student parties and vintage sales
  • Closure of community halls
  • Closure of bars by 10pm (restaurants are not affected)
  • Closure of sports halls and gyms. The closure of swimming pools is a decision for local authorities – Lyon and Lille have closed their pools but in Paris they remain open.

For the full details from your area, head to the website of you local préfecture.

The Aix-Marseille area – Marseille and its surrounding urban area – is so far the only part of France on maximum alert, which involves the complete closure of all bars and restaurants, along with the other measures mentioned above.

This measure has sparked protests from both bar owners and local authorities, some of whom have said that police will not enforce the measures despite the rapidly worsening situation in the area's hospitals.

The French government will be monitoring and updating the status of each part of France every week – we will keep this map updated with the latest on each area's status.

 

 

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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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