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HEALTH

Bars, restaurants and cinemas might not reopen in January, says French economy minister

France's restaurant sector has been eyeing January 20th as the date when they will finally be able to reopen again. But the economy minister on Monday said nothing was certain and depended on the Covid-19 health situation.

Bars, restaurants and cinemas might not reopen in January, says French economy minister
France is lifting lockdown on December 15th, but bars and restaurants must keep closed. Photo: AFP

“I can’t tell you with certainty that we will reopen bars and restaurants on January 20th, it would be dishonest of me,” Bruno Le Maire told France Info on Monday, the day before France was due to exit its second nationwide lockdown this year.

The government decided to lift lockdown on December 15th and replace it with a nighttime curfew, despite not having achieved the goal of reducing Covid-19 case numbers below 5,000 per day.

Bars and restaurants must remain shut until at least January 20th and the culture sector's reopening date was pushed back from December 15th until at least January 7th.

READ ALSO Calendar: These are the next key dates in France's lockdown

 

But the government has stressed that reopening the remaining sectors will depend on the health situation.

 

Since France's second lockdown began on October 30th, cases fell rapidly from a peak of 50,000 a day.

At the end of November, the government set a target of 5,000 cases a day to lift lockdown, and also stated that cases would have to remain under 5,000 for bars and restaurants to reopen in January.

But recently the drop in cases following the lockdown has stagnated. Since December 9th, France has registered around between 13,000 and 14,000 new Covid-19 cases each day, nearly three times the set goal of 5,000.

“The virus is still circulating and unfortunately it is circulating quite quickly,” said Eric Caumes, infectious disease specialist at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris.

The fear is that increased socialising and travel over the Christmas break could double or even treble the number of daily cases, which again could cause hospital numbers to rise in the ensuing weeks.

“We all fear a re-acceleration during the holidays. I think we are unanimous on that point,” Caumes told BFMTV.

 

If Covid-19 numbers spike, bars and restaurants, but also cinemas, theatres and other cultural spots, might not get to reopen as planned in January.

“We will review the possibility to reopen (cultural establishments) as of January 7th,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said when he laid out the weeks ahead during the press conference on Thursday.

Reopening of the cultural sector would depend on “the health situation and the analysis that we can do of the impact of the end-of-the-year celebrations on the epidemic,” the PM said.

The same would be the case for cafés, bars and restaurant, which currently may only keep a delivery or take-away service.

Both the cultural sector and the restaurant sector are reeling from the financial losses they have suffered due to the pandemic.

“I will meet with (restaurant sector) representatives in the coming weeks. . . to see how we can accompany them long term,” Le Maire said on Monday, referring to the aid schemes in place to help those affected by the lockdown.

 

 

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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