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HEALTH

French Prime Minister asks people in France to self-isolate for eight days before Christmas

Those planning to spend their Christmas holiday together with extended family or friends should self-isolate and keep their children home from school from Thursday, French authorities have said.

French Prime Minister asks people in France to self-isolate for eight days before Christmas
Christmas decorated streets of Bordeaux, southwest France, filled up with pedestrians on November 28th when the French government eased lockdown and let shops reopen. Photo: AFP

“If you can. . . (you should) self-isolate for eight days before Christmas,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Tuesday, referring to new advice from the country’s Scientific Council, which was set up in spring to advise the government on its Covid-19 measures.

“Especially if you are going to being seeing vulnerable people over Christmas,” Castex told Europe 1 on Tuesday morning, adding: “If you can not send your children to school on Thursday and Friday, you do it.”

On the morning of December 15th – the day France eased its lockdown and replaced it with a nationwide nighttime curfew – the Scientific Council published a note where they asked those planning to travel over Christmas to self-isolate for a week beforehand.

Here's what is suggested

  • Anyone planning to travel, especially those visiting people in a high risk group such as the elderly, should self-isolate for eight days before travel
  • Children can miss the final days of the school term if necessary to complete their self-isolation period
  • Pre-travel testing is only recommended for certain groups
  • These are recommendations, not rules

READ ALSO: Lockdown lifting: What kind of Christmas can we expect in France this year?

 

Prime Minister Jean Castex made clear the risks of epidemic resurgence if people relax preventive health measures during the Christmas break. Photo: AFP

School absences “tolerated”

Schools in France break up for the holidays on Saturday, December 19th, but the Scientific Council asked anyone who could to keep their children at home the two preceding days in order to leave a period of eight days from then until Christmas.

Absences these two days will be “tolerated”, the education ministry told AFP. Parents must however warn the school if they intend to keep their children at home.

“It’s not an obligation.. . It’s a recommendation,” Castex said, responding to the Europe 1 journalist's question of why authorities had not published this advice sooner, potentially making it hard for parents to organise themselves in order to keep their children and themselves at home.

What about tests?

Some people are planning to get tested before travel, but the Scientific Council warned against a “false security” regarding the Covid-19 test and asked those without any symptoms to not get tested unless they were identified as a contact case.

Health Minister Olivier Véran said the same during last week's press conference, when the government laid out the road ahead for the holiday period.

“Please don't use the test as a kind of totem of immunity, it's risky for you and for your loved ones,” Véran said then.

READ ALSO: Should you get a Covid-19 test in France before travelling over Christmas?

 

Symptomless people who were not identified as a contact case should rather reinforce health measures and reduce social contacts outside the holiday celebrations, the Council noted.

An increasing number of pharmacies are now offering the fast-result antigen test on a walk-in basis.

The Council said that while this could be useful for people who had been exposed to risk in the preceding eight days – such as working in an office or travelling on public transport – it should not replace health measures and mask-wearing.

'Extreme caution' to prevent a resurgence

France has seen Covid-19 rates stagnate following weeks of dropping daily case numbers, and authorities have expressed worry that the virus could spiral out of control again over the holidays.

The government decided to lift lockdown despite not having reached the initially set threshold of less than 5,000 new cases per day. The past week, national health authorities have reported some 13,000 new cases per day (13,662 on average in the three days preceding Monday) – nearly three times the set goal.

“The balance is fragile,” the Scientific Council noted, adding that it “urges us to be extremely cautious” as people prepare for Christmas celebrations, with some travelling to visit family in different regions, elevating the risk of spreading the virus.

The Council also reminded people to respect the “rule of six” adults around the dinner table, which is the official recommended limit (although not a legally binding rule).
 
Vocab

Auto-confinement – self-isolation

Dépistage – testing

Se faire tester – to get tested

S'isoler – isolate oneself

Prudence – caution

Réveillon – Christmas Eve

 

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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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