VIDEO: What lockdown is like in a French chateau

Not everyone in France is confined to their homes and barred from meeting others during the country's ongoing lockdown. One group of young people are enjoying life together in a 16th-century chateau in Normandy. Video by Alex Dunham and AFP.

VIDEO: What lockdown is like in a French chateau

“The first lockdown was difficult because of the lack of social contact and the lack of activity… that's why I motivated myself to come here,” said Maxime a web developer.

He's one of the 30 or so young French artists who have taken up residence in Chateau Perché in rural Normandy during France's second strict lockdown, which was imposed at the end of October.

While most in France are confined to their homes, barred from socialising and only out for essential reasons, the 30-strong group of young folks are sharing the 16th-century chateau and its grounds to work, let their hair down and even find love.

“We are basking in bliss,” said one young man from a steaming hot tub. “There are such good vibes you don't know what to do with them.”

See for yourself in Alex Dunham's latest video for The Local with AFP.








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French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.