‘Too early to cry victory’ – but no new health restrictions expected in France until after the school holidays

No new restrictions, but a warning that the health situation could change for the worse at any time, was the French government's message following Wednesday's Defence Council meeting held to assess the latest Covid data.

'Too early to cry victory' - but no new health restrictions expected in France until after the school holidays
French Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran after the weekly Defence Council meeting. Photo: AFP
Following the meeting, government spokesman Gabriel Attal announced no changes to the current health rules, but stressed that it was crucial that people continued to respect the rules in place.
“The situation is so fragile that anything can tip it over,” Attal told journalists. “It would not be reasonable to relax our efforts or to cry victory.”

Schools in some regions of France are currently on holiday and government sources had previously said that new restrictions are not expected before the end of the holiday period on March 8th, unless the health situation deteriorates dramatically.

READ ALSO February holidays in France – what are the rules and what is the advice

“Let's give the French a bit of breathing space,” one source was quoted as telling French media, while Prime Minister Jean Castex is not scheduled to be part of the regular Thursday evening press conference.

At present the situation in France is relatively stable, although several départements are giving cause for concern with high rates of the new variants of the Covid virus.

Overall the number of new Covid cases have seen a slight but sustained fall, from a daily average of 20,000 new cases last week to 18,000 this week.


Hospital occupancy rates have also dropped slightly, though Attal said “the pressure on hospitals, especially in intensive care units, remains very high.”

Several eastern regions have areas where Covid patients occupy over 70 percent of the total intensive care capacity. In Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur, the region encompassing Nice and the French Riviera, hospitals are at the brink of saturation, with Covid patients filling 97 percent of the total capacity in all of the region's départements.

The emergence of new variants also continues to worry health chiefs, with new variants including the UK, South African and Brazilian variants now accounting for 25 percent of all cases in France.

READ ALSO What is France doing to control the spread of new variants of Covid?

The eastern département of Moselle has reported 300 cases of new variants within a week, which officials say cannot be linked to travel or a single cluster.

Health chiefs will also be watching nervously to see if travel and family visits over the February school holidays leads to a post-holiday spike in cases.

For this reason France is unlikely to see a significant relaxation of the rules currently in place in the coming weeks, although ministers are discussing a possible reopening of some cultural sites such as museums while Culture Minister Roselyn Bachelot has announced a series of 'experimental' concerts with strict health rules in Paris and Marseille in the spring.


Member comments

  1. Great news! Congrats! But… just one problem… where’s the vaccine? We’re dying here in the Alpes Maritimes, especially Nice, and no vaccines! And no one telling us why? Our main vaccination center reports: 1 vaccine will be given in the next 28 days! People are angry, scared, and helpless.

  2. Breathing space? What breathing space? We are still in curfew, have been since October and infection rates are not exactly plummeting. Stable situation is not a good thing….it means nothing is improving. Vaccine rollout has been terrible. This attitude from French government is disappointing to say the least. Do they really believe they are on top of the situation?

  3. I would happily accept the Oxford jab at my surgery as the alternative seems to be no jab and take your chance with the virus. What a shambles.

  4. I agree completely with the recent comments. Here in the south of Seine et Marne the same seemingly hopeless situation with the vaccine availability and no attempt to explain or justify it; just`Tant pis” .
    What appalls me the the fact that the Government isn’t being held to account. We dont want a riot in Paris we just want competent public health management.

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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.