French government extends 6pm curfew to whole country as Covid cases rise

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday that a 6pm to 6am nighttime curfew will be extended throughout mainland France and warned that if epidemic detioriated then a new lockdown would be imposed.

French government extends 6pm curfew to whole country as Covid cases rise
Prime Minister Jean Castex once again be updated the nation on the health rules. Photo: AFP

The 6pm curfew would begin on Saturday and will remain in force for at least 15 days, Castex told a news  conference.

“Our situation is under control compared to our European neighbours but fragile because the virus is still circulating actively throughout the country,” the PM said.

He added that there was also an additional element of danger with the emergence of new, more contagious variants of the virus.

“The situation is still worrying,” he added, outlining that France now registered a weekly average of around 16,000 new Covid-19 cases per day and that hospital patient numbers, while not rising, had plateaued at a  “high level”.

The number of Covid patients in hospital in the first and second waves. Graphic: Health ministry

“The spread of this new variant of the virus remains limited, but. . . it could gain in strength,” he said.

France is registered 200-300 cases a day of the 'UK variant' of the virus.

The whole of France is already subject to an 8pm to 6am curfew, but the earlier curfew had been brought in for 25 départements in eastern and south-eastern France where case numbers rose sharply after Christmas.

Castex said infections were now rising faster in the west of the country than the east. Covid-19 rates in départements subject to a 6pm since January 2nd were rising “two to three times” lower than in the rest of the country, the PM said.

As with the 8pm curfew, travel outside the home during curfew will only be allowed for essential reasons.

Shops and businesses open to the public must close at 6pm, but people will be allowed to stay at work later and travel home – a large number of French offices usually work until 7pm.

People will also be allowed to pick up children from school or crèche after 6pm, although an exemption certificate, available on smartphones, will be needed for all these trips.

Breaking curfew attracts a €135 fine for the first offence, rising to €3,750 and six months in jail for three offences within 30 days.

EXPLAINED The rules of France's new 6pm curfew

'Lockdown if situation worsens'

The prime minister ruled out a third lockdown for now and did not impose localised lockdowns as some local authorities had requested.

However he stressed that, if the curfew did not succeed in slowing down the spread of the virus, “we must prepare for another lockdown.”

“If the health situation sharply deteriorates in the coming days, we will immediately impose another lockdown,” he said.

Schools to stay open

Schools will remain open but with reinforced health rules and the suspension of all indoor sports and activities. School canteens will also remain open but pupils from different classes would not be able to eat together.

A mass testing programme for schools was announced, with the aim of testing 300,000 pupils and staff per week, one million a month.

Border rules tightened

The Prime Minister also tightened up border controls, saying that all arrivals from outside the EU (including the UK) will now have to present a negative Covid-19 test before boarding transport. On arrival in France they will need to self-isolate for seven days and then take a second test.

Find the full rules HERE.

'700 vaccination centres'

On the subject of vaccines the PM said over a million people in France will have received the jab by the end of the month.

From Friday, people in eligible groups will be able to book an appointment online or over the phone to be vaccinated while from January 18th – anyone over 75 or with serious underlying health conditions whatever their age, will be eligible for the vaccine from this date.

France will open 700 vaccination centres throughout the country by the end of the month.

Castex also defended the decision to prioritise vaccines for the elderly and health workers, instead of trying to vaccinate as much of the general population as soon as possible.

“The sooner we can vaccinate the most vulnerable, the sooner our hospitals will be spared the risk of being overwhelmed,” he said.

Covid-19 case numbers in France have been showing a slow but steady rise in recent weeks and on Wednesday it registered 23,852 new cases.

This is far from the 50,000 new cases a day recorded when France enacted its second lockdown at the end October, but the rise is still worrying health officials – especially when coupled with fears over the new variant of the virus first discovered in the UK which is believed to be more infectious.

France is also in a markedly better position than many of its neighbours – daily death tolls in both the UK and Germany have topped 1,000 recently while France on Wednesday recorded 232 Covid-related deaths.

READ ALSO 'Tipping point' – why Europe is increasingly alarmed at new Covd-19 variants

Case numbers per million inhabitants among European countries. Graphic: Health ministry

Since the announcement of the variant anglais of the virus there have been strict controls on travel from the UK, with travel only allowed for essential reasons and everyone needing a negative Covid test to enter France.

Member comments

  1. We are also talking about the South African and Brazilian variants so these are, for now, just names. The U.S. is using the exact same names, and it is clear that banning citizens of countries with new variants is likely to be high on the agenda

  2. So the.govt has fudged it again, and just kicked the can another 15 days down the road. They’ll just keep half-assing it in the hope that the numbers drop when enough ppl have the vaccine.

  3. its all just politics. The variant in UK was already spreading since october. They only realised it became dominant in december. That means, there was already a lot of time for the variant to spread across europe – its just, that no other country was actively sequencing the genome of the SARS-COV2 that is circulating.
    At the end of the day, we will never know where it came from and it doesnt matter. Its the same story as with the original SARS-cov2 (“wuhan/china virus”) which later people realized was already spreading in italy/france mid of 2019.

  4. Well it is good news really – there has been no major spike in infections post Christmas (especially when compared to the UK and Ireland) and the stricter curfew has already had a positive impact in the east of France, so it is sensible to impose this nationally.

    Overall, not a whole lot to moan about (but I appreciate for some of you this is the only thing you know how to do, so carry on).

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French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.