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France lockdown: What’s next and when do we find out more?

As we approach another review of France's lockdown rules, what can we expect for the weeks to come?

France lockdown: What's next and when do we find out more?
French police enforcing the lockdown rules that require permission forms for all trips outside the home. Photo: AFP

Where are we now?

France is currently under a nationwide lockdown. This is not as strict as the lockdown in the spring – schools remain open, more people are going to work and shops can offer 'click and collect' services – but there are still plenty of restrictions.

People may only leave their homes for essential reasons, and any trip outside requires an attestation permission form. The same applies to travel into France – it's allowed for essential reasons only.

This lockdown came in on October 30th and runs until December 1st. The government conducted a review half-way through and decided that, although there are some early positive signs in the latest health data, the restrictions should stay in place until at least December 1st.

President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled for another TV announcement. Photo: AFP

Then what?

There will be a review this week when the French government will decide which – if any – restrictions it will lift on December 1st.

They will also lay out some guidelines for the crucial matter of Christmas and whether people in France will be permitted to visit families over the festive period.

President Emmanuel Macron will be making another televised appearance on Tuesday at 8pm.

What we expect from that?

Over the last few days the government has been laying the groundwork for what is likely to come and the general theme seems to be 'don't get your hopes up'.

In his speech last week, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that while he hoped that shops could reopen on December 1st, bars, restaurants and gyms would likely have to stay shut.

In answer to a question, Castex also said people likely would continue to need attestations to leave their homes after December 1st.

Since then there have been various leaks to media and off-the-record sources saying that bars and cafés are unlikely to open before January, or possibly even later.

French media are also reporting that Macron will shy away from using the word déconfinement (lifting lockdown) and instead use phrases like un aménagement des règles en vigueur (adjustment of the rules in place) or un assouplissement (a relaxation).

Last week the government spokesman Gabriel Attal bluntly told reporters: “We're not at all near ending the lockdown, we're still far from it even.”

What about Christmas?

So if we accept that at least some restrictions will still be in place by December 25th, what does that mean for Christmas?

Under the current regulations the things that most people want to do – travel to visit their families and sit down for dinner/drinks with a group of family and/or friends – are not allowed.

But here's what politicians have said about Christmas.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said: “Our objective is to allow a new relaxation over the Christmas period . . . so that the French can spend the holiday season with their families.”

However he went on to warn that this will not be a normal Christmas, saying: “It is not reasonable to hope for big parties and gatherings of several dozen people.”

No numbers have so far been suggested as to what would constitute a 'large' gathering, but one unnamed minister was quoted in the French press saying: “One thing is sure: we will not tell the French to eat individual turkey parts in a tray, talking to their family by video conference.”

And transport?

The question of transport services over the Christmas period is a key one – usually the weeks before and after Christmas are among the busiest of the year for national rail company SNCF, with 1.7 million people travelling by train over the holiday period in a normal year.

Last year Christmas transport was badly disrupted by strike action, with only around half of normal services running, but at present SNCF is running only around 30 percent of its usual long-distance services, since the lockdown forbids most types of long distance travel.

The question of whether SNCF will be allowed to increase services is therefore a big issue, with transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari saying he had asked the rail operator to be 'ready' to increase services, but adding that this would only be possible if the health situation allows.

 

 

For foreign residents in France hoping to travel to see family in their home countries, there has so far been no discussion of lifting restrictions on international travel.

Anyone wanting to travel to another country would also have to contend with restrictions in place there – for example the quarantine in the UK still in place for travellers from France.

How is the health situation?

Of course, both lockdown and lifting lockdown – or confinement and déconfinement as the French language more elegantly has it – depend on the latest Covid-19 situation.

And here there is some good news, as lockdown appears to be having the desired effect – enough for the health minister to declare that France has “passed the peak” of the second wave.

However although the trends are encouraging, the situation is still very serious, with France averaging around 400 deaths a day and intensive care units around the country running at 94 percent of their capacity. 

IN NUMBERS Reasons to be optimistic about the Covid-19 situation in France

Vocab

Confinement – lockdown

Déconfinement – lifting lockdown

Reconfinement – re-imposing lockdown

Un assouplissment – a relaxation

Un aménagement – an adjustment

Une dérogation – an exemption

Les règles – the rules

 

 

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

With travel opening up, many people are planning trips to France over the next few months, but the Covid pandemic has not gone away. Here are your questions answered on testing, isolation and medical treatment if you do fall sick while on holiday.

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

Travel rules

Covid-related travel rules have mostly been relaxed now but you will still need to show proof of being fully vaccinated at the French border. If you are not vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test – find the full breakdown of the rules HERE.

Testing

Once in France if you develop symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive you will need to get a Covid test.

The good news is that testing is widely available in France, both for residents and tourists.

The easiest way to get a test is head to a pharmacy, most of which offer the rapid-result antigen test on a walk-in basis Tests are available to everyone who wants one, there is no need to fulfill any set criteria.

For full details on how to get a test, and some handy French vocab, click HERE.

The difference for tourists is that you will have to pay for your test, while residents get their costs reimbursed by the French state health system.

In the pharmacy you may be asked for your carte vitale – this is the health card that residents use to claim refunds. As a tourist you won’t have the card – you can still get the test, you will just need to pay for it. Costs vary between pharmacies but are capped at €22 for an antigen test or €54 for a PCR test.

Isolation

If your test is positive you are legally required to isolate, but how long your isolation period is depends on the your vaccination stats – full details HERE.

Treatment

For most fully-vaccinated people without underlying health conditions the symptoms of Covid are fairly mild, but if you do become ill, here’s how to access medical help while in France.

Pharmacy – one of the first things you will notice about France is that pharmacies are everywhere, just look out for the green cross. As well as selling over-the-counter medication, pharmacies all have at least one fully-qualified pharmacist on the staff who can offer medical advice. 

Take advantage of pharmacists – they train for at least six years so they’re very knowledgeable and they’re easy to access by simply walking into the shop. In tourist areas it’s likely that they will speak English. Pharmacists can also signpost you to a nearby doctor if you need extra help.

Doctors – if you need to see a doctor, look out for a médecin généraliste (a GP or family doctor). There is no need to be registered with a doctor, simply call up and ask for an appointment if you need one. If you have a smartphone you can use the medical app Doctolib to find a généraliste in your area who speaks English. You will need to pay for your consultation – €25 is the standard charge and you pay the doctor directly using either cash or a debit card.

You may be able to claim back the cost later on your own health/travel insurance depending on the policy.

Ambulance – if you are very sick or have difficulty breathing you should call an ambulance – the number is 15. All non-residents are entitled to emergency treatment in France, whether or not you have insurance, but if you are admitted or have treatment you may need to pay later.

READ ALSO Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Paxlovid – several readers have asked whether the Covid treatment drug Paxlovid is available in France. It was licenced for use in February 2022 and is available on prescription from pharmacies, mainly for people with underlying health conditions or an impaired immune system. You can get a prescription from a medical practitioner.

The drug is reimbursed for French residents, but as a tourist you will have to pay.

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