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HEALTH

‘I’m worried about infecting my parents’ – French plan a quiet Christmas as lockdown lifts

Lockdown has lifted in France and travel and socialising over Christmas will be possible - but how far do the French plan to take their newfound freedom? Isabella Solari spoke to some families about their holiday plans.

'I'm worried about infecting my parents' - French plan a quiet Christmas as lockdown lifts
Masked visitors at a Christmas market in Moselle, eastern France, on December 10th. Photo: AFP

On December 15th France lifted its six-week lockdown, which means that travel for any reason and socialising are again possible.

This means that people can go and visit their families over the holiday – but plenty of restrictions remain, including an 8pm curfew, while bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas have to keep shut.

READ ALSO What changes in France as lockdown lifts?

On top of this, the French Prime Minister has advised anyone planning to travel and visit family and friends that they should self-isolate for eight days beforehand. Children have been given a special dispensation to miss the last two days of school for this purpose.

So given all the restrictions, are French people planning a normal Christmas this year?

“I fear that we could pay the price of the easing of restrictions”, said Pauline, 70.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another lockdown in January or February.”

Most people we spoke to said their life won’t change much as lockdown lifts because restaurants, theatres etc are staying closed and going out in the evening is not possible because of the curfew.

Déconfinement (lifting lockdown) doesn’t change much for me because I still can’t go to restaurants with my friends or go to the theatre,' said Jacques, 32.

“The only thing that will change is that I can see my parents again.”

But he added that he agreed with the curfew, saying; “at least my neighbours won’t be having parties soon”.

But although seeing family is again possible, the government has urged caution, particularly for people whose relatives are in high-risk groups such as the elderly.

Marc, a 55-year-old from Paris told The Local: “I’m worried about travelling to see my parents this Christmas.

“I’m still planning to see them, but I’ll be wearing a mask and staying 1.5 metres away at all times, as will my kids”.

The eight-day self-isolation period before travel is a recommendation, not a rule, but the government's Scientific Council hopes this could flatten a post-Christmas spike in cases.

But Marie, 48, said: “It simply isn’t possible for me to quarantine for eight days.

“I am a nurse and I only just managed to get enough days off work to visit my parents, but I’ll be taking all the necessary precautions to keep my family safe and I get tested in my job every week.”

Even the students, sometimes scapegoated as being the 'superspreaders' of Covid-19 through unauthorised partying, have scaled down their plans.

French and international students living in Paris all said they expected the Christmas holidays to be a far cry from their usual celebrations. 

Most international students said they still planned to go home for the holidays, but many other countries have quarantines in place for travellers from France and other countries have their own restrictions – many tighter than France's.

Rachel, a 21-year-old British student studying in Paris said: “I won’t be doing the usual things I do with my friends at Christmas.

“I can travel to go home but we can’t have a party, go out to a restaurant and definitely not a bar. My Christmas will be very much spent at home with my close family members.”

The French government decided to keep the curfew in place for every day over the festivities (except for December 24th) to prevent people from throwing late-night parties to ring in the New Year.  

Member comments

  1. What a vast difference between the attitude of the English and French. The English guttersnipe press is filled with comments from Gammons complaining about their petty Christmas restrictions. If one can’t give one Christmas a miss there is something wrong with their single braincell.

  2. Refusal to take precautions is selfishness, nothing more – hence the English reaction by so many over there. Brexit has produced a racial exceptionalism, and this selfishness is a by-product of it.

    This isn’t just about ourselves, it’s to protect those around us. If ever we needed social cohesion, it’s now.

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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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