France set to reopen stores for festive season as Covid-19 numbers drop

The French government on Friday suggested it was ready to reopen stores in time for the crucial Christmas shopping season, encouraged by new data suggesting that the country is past the worst of its second wave of coronavirus infections.

France set to reopen stores for festive season as Covid-19 numbers drop

Prime Minister Jean Castex said Friday that France was “on the right path” which could justify small shops reopening “around December 1”.

Thanks to curfews and lockdowns, confirmed new infections dropped 40 percent last week, admissions to hospital fell 13 percent, and the number of new intensive care patients was down nine percent, the national health agency 
Sante Publique France reported.

The data provided fresh arguments for shop owners who have been lobbying to be allowed to reopen as early as next week as the government sought to hammer out arrangements for the Black Friday shopping splurge that would make the 
retail bonanza compatible with ongoing health protocols.

An update on store openings is expected on Tuesday, when President Emmanuel Macron goes on television to update the country on coronavirus measures, his office said.

“Although indicators are still at high levels, they suggest that the peak of the second wave is behind us,” the agency said, but warned that it was too early to relax lockdown measures.

READ MORE – New Covid-19 numbers give reason to be optimistic in France


The number of Covid deaths has stabilised after several weeks of increases, the agency said, with 3,756 recorded fatalities compared with 3,817 a week earlier.

'Direct impact'

French cities that imposed curfews earliest are now seeing the sharpest decreases in patient numbers, Sante Publique said.

Confinement measures were having “a direct impact” on patient statistics, which typically started to fall around 10 days after restrictions kicked in.

The government placed Paris and some other large cities under curfew on October 17, with others following suit a week later.

But since October 30, all of France has been under a lockdown, though it is less severe than the one seen in the spring, with schools still open and a wider range of shops still welcoming clients.

Sante Public said the “encouraging” statistics “should not make us forget that pending the availability of treatments and vaccines, the only way to slow the pandemic and lessen its impact on the health system is still to adopt individual prevention measures, combined with collective measures.”

On Friday, Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari warned that it was too early to say whether people would be able to travel at Christmas, saying the Covid trend reversal was still “fragile.”

National rail operator SNCF has slashed train schedules by 70 percent, but is planning to ramp its network back to normal capacity starting December 15.

Black Friday, a movable feast 

Representatives from stores and online commerce sites meanwhile agreed with the finance ministry that Black Friday, scheduled for November 27 this year, will be postponed by a week if shops have been authorised to reopen by then.

Originally a US retail fest, Black Friday has caught on across the world, with French luxury department store Galeries Lafayette saying it generated more revenue on Black Friday in 2019 than on any other day of the year.

Government officials said reopening brick-and-mortar stores by Black Friday was one of the options on the table, but they feared that crowds flocking into shops could endanger progress made against infections.

The deal signed Friday deal was to allow “a reopening of stores soon under maximum health security conditions”, a joint statement from the signatories said, without having to absorb large crowds of bargain hunters.

The head of Amazon's French operations, Frederic Duval, had already flagged that his company was in favour of moving Black Friday back to December 4 “if that allows shops and physical stores to reopen before December 1”.

French stores have complained that the retail day would unfairly benefit online retail giants like Amazon if high street stores remained shuttered.

Macron is expected on Tuesday to announce tweaks to the current lockdown measures, which technically expire on December 1, with an easing of restrictions rather than ending the lockdown entirely.


Member comments

  1. So let’s open all the stores for Christmas and see the virus explode again like it did in the summer. It makes me think that Macron and his cronies have not a brain cell among them. How he got on in banking is a mystery.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body has outlined how Covid-19 rules will change 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 will relax in France as the country ends 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 will take 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.

Manual widget for ML (class=”ml-manual-widget-container”)

Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 will return to normal on February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 will 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 will begin in 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.