LATEST: French government to re-impose state of health emergency

The French government announced on Wednesday it will restore the state of health emergency in the country as it battles to stem the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

LATEST: French government to re-impose state of health emergency
Illustration photo: AFP

The state of emergency will be re-established on Saturday, the government has said.

This will pave the way for the government to introduce new and stricter measures – whether at local or national level – to fight the resurgence of coronavirus infections.

France first declared a national State of Health Emergency in March, which allowed the government to introduce tight rules on movement of people and forced them to stay at home. I ended on July 10th.

President Emmanuel Macron announced tighter restrictions during a televised interview on Wednesday. As had been widely speculated he announced a nighttime curfew in the hardest hit areas of the country such as Paris and other major cities.

Macron said residents of those cities would not be allowed to be outdoors between 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) and 6:00 am (0400 GMT) from Saturday, for a duration of at least four weeks.

“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,” Macron said, adding the measure would stop people visiting restaurants and private homes in the late evening and night.

Under a state of emergency the government will also have the power to make decisions quickly and not require measures to pass the full legislative process through the Assemblée Nationale and the Senate, as is usually the case.

The move will allow  “measures proportional to the health risks to be taken”, and will enter into force on Saturday, according to minutes from a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. It was not clear how long the state of emergency would last for.

France was facing “a health catastrophe”, the minutes said.

Covid-19 cases have been steadily rising in France since the summer and in recent weeks hospital numbers and in particular those in intensive care.

On Wednesday French health chiefs reported there were just over 9,000 Covid-19 patients in hospital, 1, 664 of whom were being treated in intensive care. That reflects a similar number of patients in intensive care as there were at the end of May.

Authorities also announced the death of a further 104 coronavirus patients on Wednesday.

READ ALSO What does a state of health emergency mean for France?


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French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.