What will going shopping be like in France after lockdown rules eased

Shops will reopen in France on Saturday in the first out of several steps to relax lockdown, although under strict health rules.

What will going shopping be like in France after lockdown rules eased
A shop-owner in Bordeaux prepares the new signs showing his store's maximum capacity. Photo: AFP

In a bit to boost economic activity in the weeks before Christmas. the government has allowed so-called “non-essential” shops – toy shops, clothing shops, book shops, record shops and others that closed down for the lockdown – to get back in business as of November 28th.

These are the health rules they must follow.

8 square metres per customer – This is the main rule, which has caused something of a stir because it is twice as much as before the second lockdown, however this time aisles, counters and other objects will not feature into the calculation. A store with a surface of 100 square metres can welcome 12 customers at the time.

Detailing these rules during a press conference on Thursday morning, Prime Minister Jean Castex said the government aimed to make the new health protocol “as simple as possible”. Shop owners may also apply what the PM called “common sense” and count a couple or a parent with their child will count as one person instead of two.

Customer information – All shops must put up signs to their customers that show their maximum capacity, what health rules customers must follow, the shop's opening hours and – when possible – a time limit each customer must respect inside the store.

Pay by card – Shops must also incite customers to pay by card if possible.

Bring your own bag – This too should feature on the sign outside the shop. To limit the total number of contact points, customers are invited to bring their own bags instead of purchasing one at the store.

Tous Anti Covid – All shops that reopen will have to put up a sign on their shop inviting their customers to download the government's Covid-19 trace and track-application TousAntiCovid and activate it when entering the store.

One-way circulation – Customers will only be able to move in one direction inside the store. Businesses will have to put up signs or arrows on the floor to direct customers the right way.

Hand sanitiser – This is not new, but shops will have to keep putting out hand sanitising gel at their entry and exit points to let customers disinfect their hands.

Masks – Not new either, but everyone going into a shop will have to wear a protective face mask at all times.

Queuing – The government did not specify what the queuing system would be like, but after the first lockdown shops operated with spaced-out queues where each person ensured they put 1 metre between themselves and others.

Outdoor stands – Paris City Hall will give shops the right to expand their establishments out onto the pavements, similar to what restaurants and bars did this summer, according to French media.

From December 1st to January 3rd, Parisian shops can access free outdoor space if they sign a charter committing to respecting health rules and other rules relating to keeping the space clean and secure. The city has calculated that some 48,000 shops will be able to benefit from this measure, including food shops that have been able to stay open during lockdown.

Sundays – To catch up with their losses, the government has said shops may stay open on Sundays. However this is not unusual for December, when many shops generally stay open all week.

Getting a haircut has been a slightly different affair since Covid-19, and as of Saturday when salons reopen rules will be even stricter. Photo: AFP

What about hairdressers?

Hairdressers, beauty salons and barbers can also reopen on Saturday, if they comply with the same rules as those in place for shops.  

All establishments must keep with the limit of one costumer per 8 square metres – staff and equipment does not feature into the equation – which means some salons will only be able to receive a couple of customers at the time. 

The full health protocol is available on the government's website (link here).

Member comments

  1. Will they soon demand you have to download that ‘tous covid’ app if you want to enter a shop? Will people really do that? it means house arrest if you see a positive covid person, even if you had no direct contact, stayed in your own 8m2 bubble and there was no sneezing, coughing or kissing. Never mind………I will not download anything

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Sick patients in France lacking GP to be contacted before summer, minister says

The French minister of health promised that chronically ill patients who aren't registered with a doctor will be contacted by the summer.

Sick patients in France lacking GP to be contacted before summer, minister says

François Braun, France’s Health Minister, said on Monday that all chronically ill patients without a general practitioner will be contacted before the month of June with “concrete solutions”.

There is a general shortage of medécins généraliste (GPs or family doctors) in France, with some areas classed as ‘medical deserts’ where people find it almost impossible to register with a doctor.

The health minister said that people without access to primary care doctors are “deprived of a regular follow-up” and that this is “no longer acceptable” for those with chronic illnesses. These groups will be contacted via Assurance Maladie before the summer, he added. 

Braun’s statements came a few weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech to healthcare workers outlining the ways he is seeking to overhaul the health system in the country.

READ MORE: How Macron intends to revive France’s ailing health system in 6 months

In his speech, the president promised that the “600,000 patients in France who suffer from a chronic disease would be offered a primary care doctor – or at least a ‘reference team’ – by the end of the year.”

Macron also discussed plans establish a “Conseil national de la refondation (CNR – or National Council for Reconstruction)” to build a “roadmap” for solutions in the fight against medical deserts.

Approximately six million French people are estimated to lack a primary care doctor, and 600,000 of those people suffer from long-term diseases, according to Franceinfo.

READ MORE: What to do if you live in one of France’s ‘medical deserts’

This issue is aggravated by the fact that almost a third of French people live in medical deserts – or geographical zones where healthcare providers and general practitioners are severely lacking compared to the rest of the country. Generally, this refers to healthcare in the community such as GPs or family doctors, dentists or community nurses, rather than hospitals.

Medical desertification mainly affects rural areas with an ageing population – though they’re also developing in some towns and cities (including some Paris suburbs) as retiring doctors are not replaced and younger medics establish themselves in more dynamic zones, both in terms of economy and activities.