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CHRISTMAS

Christmas trees will be allowed as ‘essential’ shopping in France

French shoppers might be limited to essential purchases only under the current lockdown, but in festive news - the government has said that it will designate Christmas trees as essential items.

Christmas trees will be allowed as 'essential' shopping in France
France might be spending Christmas this year under lockdown, but luckily trees will be allowed. Photo: AFP

According to a report in the Journal du Dimanche, the French government will shortly publish a decree laying out the rules of Christmas tree selling under lockdown rules, with garden centres, open-air markets and supermarket car parks suggested as likely venues for sale points.

The decree follows lobbying from the Christmas tree industry, which feared a total collapse of its annual sales as  retailers only are permitted to sell 'essential' items under the current lockdown rules.

France's second lockdown allows only certain stores such as supermarkets, grocery stores and pharmacies to open, and even supermarkets are not allowed to sell 'non essential' items such as clothes, DVDs and books. Most other types of stores – including florists which sell trees at Christmas – are closed although they are allowed to offer 'click and collect' services.

The current lockdown runs until December 1st, although the government has been clear that it could be extended if the health situation requires it. France's Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon said on Monday that the second wave has not yet reached its peak.

READ ALSO Why do the French eat so much seafood at Christmas?

The presidential Christmas tree traditionally comes from Morvan in eastern France. Photo: AFP

And it seems that some people are already resigning themselves to a Christmas spent under lockdown, with one poll showing that 71 percent of people in France would agree to lockdown being continued over the festive season, if the health situation demanded it.

Having a real Christmas tree in the home is popular in France, with about five million sold every year. The largest Christmas-tree growing region is Morvan natural park in eastern France, which supplies the tree to the president's Elysée Palace every year.

READ ALSO Morvan: Why you should visit one of France's most beautiful and least known natural parks

However the cut trees are not popular with environmentalists and several of France's Green party mayors, including the mayor of Bordeaux, have said their cities will not have Christmas trees this year, but will instead feature festive displays of live plants and trees.

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COVID-19

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body outlined how Covid-19 rules changed starting on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules relaxed in France as the country brought an end to compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes took effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 would return to normal starting February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 now also have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that began at the start of February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.

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