French authors to pay bookshop fines for staying open despite coronavirus rules

One of France's best-known authors, Alexandre Jardin, vowed on Sunday that writers would bail out rebel bookshop owners fined for opening in defiance of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

French authors to pay bookshop fines for staying open despite coronavirus rules
French book seller Florence Kammermann poses in her bookstore in Cannes, on November 13, 2020. She is keeping her store open, despite the second lockdown rules prohibiting it. Valery HACHE / AFP

Literature lovers are fuming over the government's shutting of bookstores, along with all other outlets selling “non-essential” goods or services, for the second time this year.

A handful of bookshops have openly flouted the shutdown, backed by writers, literary critics and tens of thousands of bookworms who argue that books are essential to well-being.

Jardin, who penned bestselling romance novels “Le Zebre” and “Fanfan”, has rallied in their defence.

He said on Sunday that authors would pay the fines incurred by rogue booksellers.

Jardin told Europe 1 radio that Didier van Cauwelaert, winner of the Prix Goncourt, France's top literary prize for his 1994 novel “Un Aller Simple”, had offered to cover any penalty imposed on a bookshop in the city of Cannes, leading the revolt.

“The next bookshop will be me, and the next somebody else,” he said, declaring that “no state has the moral right to close bookshops”.


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'Freedom of speech' 

France has some of the highest book readership figures in the world, studies show, and one of the largest networks of independent bookstores.

While hairdressers, toy stores, perfumeries, florists, cinemas and malls have all been shut since October 30, the plight of bookshops has sparked the greatest public indignation.

In an open letter to President Emmanuel Macron, van Cauwelaert warned that restricting access to culture posed a threat to France's “precious freedom of speech”.

Jardin pointed out that other European countries, such as Belgium, had allowed bookshops to remain open.

The head of Grasset publishing house, Olivier Nora, complained booksellers were missing out on crucial  November-December sales accounting for 25 percent of annual revenues.

The French government has so far resisted pressure to ease a month-long partial lockdown imposed to curb a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday did however raise the possibility that some shops might be allowed to reopen in December if current trends showing a decline in new infections continue.

The coronavirus has killed over 44,000 people in France. On Saturday, Macron tweeted that “the next few days will be decisive” and urged people to continue taking precautions.


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Member comments

  1. Nice to see them doing their bit to help stop the spread of the virus.
    I would have thought that anyone who regards books as a life line would have enough books already to last a few months. Ridiculous.

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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.