France to lift lockdown, but with extra restrictions in place over Christmas

France will lift its lockdown as planned on December 15th - but with extra strict conditions in place in the face of worrying health data, the prime minister has announced.

France to lift lockdown, but with extra restrictions in place over Christmas
French Prime Minister Jean Castex. Photo: AFP

France had initially hoped to be able to lift many of its lockdown rules on December 15th – allowing people to travel to visit friends and family over the holidays – followed by a reopening of bars and gyms on January 20th.

However all this depended on cases falling to 5,000 a day, a target that the government now judge 'impossible'.

Instead Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday evening that while some restrictions will be lifted, other will stay in place and an 8pm curfew will be introduced.

He said: “We are not yet at the end of the second wave, and we won’t be at the goal we set of 5,000 new cases per day by December 15th.

“We know that the gatherings over the holidays present a risk.

“For all these reasons we need to keep our guard up, stay vigilant. . . and let everyone benefit from the holidays, but without risking provoking an epidemic resurgence.”

From December 15th

  • Lockdown will be lifted, and trips out of the home will no longer require an essential reason or an attestation (permission form).
  • A curfew from 8pm to 6am will be introduced
  • Cinemas, theatres and other cultural centres, which had been scheduled to reopen on December 15th, will stay closed until at least January 7th
  • Bars, restaurants and gyms will remain closed until at least January 20th, as planned
  • Rules on religious services remain the same
  • The curfew will be lifted on December 24th, but not on December 31st as had previously been suggested

The prime minister called on everyone to continue to work from home if possible, stay home as much as possible and limit social gatherings.

Castex said: “The conditions for reopening cultural centres are unfortunately not met. These are mainly cinemas, theatres and museums, but also sports establishments that receive public, circuses, zoos or even gaming rooms and casinos.

“I know how much the cultural sector has prepared to reopen. . . This decision was especially painful, believe us.”

However travel between regions – and in and out of France – will be allowed from December 15th for all reasons including holidays and family visits.

The curfew will be strictly enforced and only the following reasons will be accepted for being out between 8pm and 6am

  • Working or travelling to and from work
  • Essential family reasons (not including family visits)
  • Medical reasons
  • Providing aid to a person in need
  • Walking the dog (although trips out for exercise are not allowed during curfew)

An attestation will be needed for all trips out of the home during curfew hours and people found out at night without a form risk a €135 fine.

For the full rules on the curfew – click here.

On the subject of Christmas, the prime minister said that people could travel to see relatives, but urged people to keep gatherings small – France's recommended limit is six adults – and warned that too many gatherings could lead to a third wave of cases – and third lockdown – in January.

Health minister Olivier Véran warned that although cases were no longer rising, a resurgence could happen very quickly.

He said there were two major risk factors; the cold damp weather which has driven everyone indoors and the end-of-year holidays which will see an increase in socialising.

He said: “We will not arrive at 5,000 cases on December 15th.

“One person is hospitalised every minute still with Covid. Case numbers are decreasing, but the decrease is slowing down.

“This past 24 hours a Covid patient has been admitted into intensive care every seven minutes.

“The risk is that seriously ill cases will increase again.”

Member comments

  1. I do understand that families like to get together at Christmas. I don’t understand why they can’t be postponed for just 6 months when conditions might be safer and better for everyone.
    My family are going to have an “Australian” Chistmas, here in France on June 25th ’21. (I know it should be 21st as summer equinox , but lets have two days celebration LOL)

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


Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones.