EXPLAINED: What counts as an ‘essential’ shopping trip under France’s second lockdown

There has been some shifting of the rules during France's second lockdown on what exactly constitutes essential items, so we look at what you're allowed to leave your home for.

EXPLAINED: What counts as an 'essential' shopping trip under France's second lockdown
Photo: AFP

During the spring lockdown, the range of shops that were open were very limited indeed – basically you could leave your house to buy food and drink, and not much else.

But the second lockdown which began on October 30th is a more relaxed version with more businesses remaining open. This has lead to some confusion on what is allowed, and which box on the attestation form you should tick when leaving your home.

Open shops

This time around there are more shops open than in the spring, but the basic rule of thumb here is that if the shop is open you can shop at it. 

The rules for 'essential businesses' list which types of shops remain open so it doesn't matter whether other people consider your shopping basket of six different types of cheese essential or not (and if they don't, we don't want to talk to them), if you're shopping at an essential business then your purchases are essential.

If you're in large supermarkets, however, you will see certain types of aisles cordoned off, including clothes, books, toys, jewellery and music/DVDs.

READ ALSO These are the 'essential' items supermarkets can sell during lockdown

Toy sections are closed off in French supermarkets as toy shops had to close as 'non essential'. Photo: AFP

For this you tick the second box on the attestationdéplacements pour effectuer des achats de première nécessité dans des etablissements dont les activités demeurent autorisées (trips to buy essential items in businesses that are authorised to open).

In good news for festive types, the French government says that Christmas trees will be counted as essential purchases.


As well as shops selling actual things, more businesses that offer services are open this time around too, for example garages are open and offering appointments for car services and côntrole techniques and in most areas the déchetterie (recycling centre) is open.

Again, these are legally allowed to open so you are legally allowed to visit them and you would tick the same box as for grocery shopping.

Official appointments

Also open this time around are the administrative offices of the French state such as mairies and préfectures and in good news for foreigners they are still processing applications for cartes de séjour residency cards. If you have an appointment with an official body such as the préfecture, you tick the third from last box on the form – convocation judiciaire ou administrative et pour rendre dans un service public.

Click and collect 

Many of the shops not permitted to open, such as florists and book stores, have this time been allowed to operate a 'click and collect' service, where you order in advance online or by phone and then go down and collect your purchases.

You are allowed to go out and collect them, and here you tick the same box as for grocery shopping, which has a a sub category for le retrait de commandes et les livraisons à domicile – collecting pre-ordered items. This also covers going to pick up a delivery that has ended up in a different location.

READ ALSO This is how you can support your local shops during lockdown


Many people have also asked us if there is a limit to the time you can spend shopping or the distance you can go. The answer to this is no, only trips out for exercise have the one-hour, 1km limit, but you should exercise some discretion.

READ ALSO The rules on exercising during lockdown

If you live in Paris and you're 10km from your home on a trip to buy bread, a gendarme might reasonably ask whether you couldn't have bought your baguette a little closer to home. If you're in the countryside, however, it's entirely possible that your nearest store is 10km away.

Likewise with the time limit, there's no necessity to do all your shopping within an hour, but if you're stopped at 5pm with a shopping form timed at 9am, questions may again be asked.

There is no limit on how many times you can go out shopping during the day, provided you have an new attestation for each trip. However the government has asked that everyone reduces their number of daily outings as much as possible.


As with all articles concerning the lockdown, we would point out that the rules are in place for a reason – France's Covid death toll has topped 40,000 and over the last week a person has died of Covid every four minutes. As France's health minister pointed out, the closer that we all stick to the rules, the sooner the lockdown can end.

IN NUMBERS France's Covid-19 deaths, cases and hospitalisations

Member comments

  1. I’ve found the form on the Covid app (tousAntiCovid) pretty useful – not only does it remember your details and shows the barcode on your phone, it’s also available in English which makes deciphering the categories a little bit easier…!

  2. on the tousanticovid app you can only tick one box. does it mean I am not allowed to go out for multiple reasons, e-g exercise and buy my bread in one go. would be in line with the main goal to limit ´deplacements´.

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French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.