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)

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Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

An investigation has revealed that tap water supplied to some 12 million people in France was sometimes contaminated with high levels of pesticides last year.

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

Data from regional health agencies, and collated by Le Monde, found that supplies to about 20 percent of the population, up from 5.9 percent the year previously, failed to consistently meet regional quality standards. 

The study highlighted regional differences in tap water quality. Hauts-de-France water was the most likely to be affected, with 65 percent of the population there drinking water contaminated by unacceptable pesticide levels. In Brittany, that level fell to 43 percent; 25.5 percent in the Grand-Est, and 25 percent in the Pays de la Loire.

Occitanie, in southwest France, meanwhile, showed the lowest level of non-compliance with standards, with just 5.1 percent of the region’s population affected by high pesticide levels in their tap water. However, figures show that 71 percent of people in one département in the region, Gers, were supplied with water containing high levels of pesticides.

Regional discrepancies in testing, including what chemicals are tested for, mean that results and standards are not uniform across France. Tap water in Haute-Corse is tested for 24 pesticide molecules; in Hauts-de-Seine, that figure rises to 477. 

One reason for regional testing standards are differences in local agricultural requirements.

Part of the increase in the year-on-year number of households supplied with affected water may also be explained by the fact that tests in many regions now seek to trace more molecules, Le Monde noted.

Water quality standards in France are strict – with a limit for pesticide residues set at 0.1 microgramme per litre, so the “high” levels found in tap water supplies may not represent a danger to health.

The question of the level of health risk to humans, therefore, remains unclear. The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) has not defined a maximum safety level for 23 pesticides or their metabolites. Le Monde cites two metabolites of chloridazone, a herbicide used until 2020 on beet fields, for which only provisional safety levels in tap water have been set. 

Many of these molecules and their long-term effects remain unknown – and “the long-term health effects of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess,” admits the Ministry of Health.

Michel Laforcade, former director general of the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine told Le Monde that health authorities have “failed” on this subject. 

“One day, we will have to give an account,” he said. “It may not be on the same scale as the contaminated blood affair, but it could become the next public health scandal.”

In December 2020, the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) recommended “restricting uses of water” as soon as the 0.1 micrograms per litre quality threshold is exceeded, in cases of residues for which there is no formal maximum health value.

But this principle is not always applied, according to France 2’s Complètement d’enquête programme.

In December 2021, the DGS asked the Haut conseil de la santé publique (HCSP) “for support on the management of health risks associated with the presence of pesticides and pesticide metabolites in water intended for human consumption.”

The HCSP, in response, said that “an active and urgent policy must be implemented to reduce the contamination of resources by pesticides”.