What are the rules under France’s new nationwide curfew?

On December 15th, a nationwide nighttime curfew replaces the lockdown in France. These are the rules to look out for.

What are the rules under France's new nationwide curfew?
Police will be strict when enforcing the coming night time curfew in France, the government said on Thursday. Photo: AFP

“We will put in place a curfew that will be stricter than planned,” said French Prime Minister Jean Castex.

Flanked by the health and interior ministers, the prime minister declared in a speech on December 10th that the government had decided to lift lockdown on the coming Tuesday, even though the goal of decreasing the number of Covid-19 cases below 5,000 per day “would not be met”.

“This is why we have decided to adapt the easing of lockdown,” Castex said.

Cinemas, theatres and other cultural establishments would have to stay shut for at least another three weeks, and instead of 9pm, the curfew would run from 8pm to 6am.

The curfew would remain in place on December 31st, New Year’s Eve, contrary to what was earlier announced, and would not affect France's overseas territories.

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

December 24th, Christmas Eve, will be a curfew-free night to allow for later celebrations.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said 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

  • Helping a person in need

  • Answering an administrative or judicial summons or at the request of an administrative authority

  • Walking the dog within 1km of your home (although trips out for exercise are not allowed during curfew)

  • Travelling with train, plane or other transport means (in the event of a police check you will have to show a valid ticket)

€135 fine

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 – a new version of the permission form will be available soon.

The curfew attestation (permission slip) is available on the government's website – HERE or on the TousAntiCovid app.

Photo: Screen dump France Info

Can I go to the shop after 8pm?

Those who go to shopping in the evening will not be able to stay until 8pm (except if they literally live in the shop).

“You will have to organise yourself to be home by 8pm,” the interior minister said.

Showing a receipt to the police in the event of a curfew check will not be a valid reason to avoid a fine, Darmanin said.

On the other hand, those who work in a shop or another business that closes at 8pm will be able to return home without risking a fine, as long as they tick the right box on the curfew attestation certificate to be presented to the police.

Can I travel after 8pm?

People arriving in France or travelling between regions whose transport arrives close to or after 8pm are permitted to travel onwards to their final destination.

“From 8pm, [people] must stop travelling with a few exceptions: a train or a plane connection, as was the case during the first lockdown,” Darmanin said, adding that a ticket would serve as travel proof alongside the regular curfew attestation.

Those with a plane, train or ferry to catch outside curfew hours should therefore both fill out a curfew attestation – ticking the déplacements liés à des transits ferroviaires ou aériens pour des déplacements de longues distances (trips linked to long-distance rail or air travel) and keep their ticket ready in the event of a police check.

The plan is to abolish the curfew on January 20th when restaurants, cafés and gyms will reopen – but all this will only happen if Covid-19 cases stay at a low enough level.

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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.