French court orders government to loosen rules on religious ceremonies

France's highest administrative court on Sunday ordered the government to loosen coronavirus rules allowing no more than 30 people at religious services, in the face of angry objections from church leaders.

French court orders government to loosen rules on religious ceremonies
People pray during a service at the Saint-Sulpice church in Paris on November 29, 2020 with only 30 people allowed in per church. ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

The Council of State said it was giving Prime Minister Jean Castex three days to change the rules, as the limit of 30 set to combat the coronavirus was not sufficient to allow the faithful to attend services when they wanted.

Catholic associations had filed a complaint with the body on Friday describing the government measures as “unnecessary, disproportionate and discriminatory”.

Their lawyers had argued that the latest coronavirus rules in France –which on Saturday saw non-essential businesses allowed to open — meant that in the run-up to Christmas a superstore could host hundreds of people but a cathedral could admit only a handful of believers.

People attend a service at the Saint-Sulpice church in Paris, November 29, 2020: ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

France's Council of Bishops (CEF) applauded the ruling, saying “common sense has been recognised” while expressing the hope that “resorting to justice should be the exception in the dialogue with the authorities in our country”.

Its representatives were due to meet Prime Minister Jean Castex later on Sunday to discuss the next steps

READ ALSO: Calendar: The next key dates in France's plan to end lockdown

Member comments

  1. As a Roman Catholic I would of thought that my Church would try to set the best example for its parishoners. This is not a best practices example, but a terrible example for an instutition to set that has provided in the past an ideal example of loving and christian behavior for its parishoners. I understand that the requirements for shopping are very different. But where does it say in the Bible we should stoop to that level and not be concerned wioth life, and expose people to covid-19 and possibly death? This sounds more like going to Mass is a public spectacle of your religiousness, and not your contriteness. I was under the impresion that Mass was a time to worship Gods word, and reflect on God and what he wants us to accomplish.

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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.