Covid weekend lockdown extended in French Riviera, Nice and Dunkirk

The French government has extended the strict weekend lockdown in place in Nice and the French Riviera, following the Covid Defence Council meeting on Wednesday.

Covid weekend lockdown extended in French Riviera, Nice and Dunkirk
lockdown weekend in Nice, southern France, on March 7th. Photo: Valery HACHE / AFP

“We must not and we cannot relax (our Covid measures) at this time,” government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said in a press conference following the meeting, where the government had decided to keep the weekend lockdown in place for the coming weekend.

“We will be able to consider lifting the measure next weekend,” Attal said, though cautioning that this depended on how the health situation in the areas concerned developed until then.

Authorities in the northern French town of Dunkirk on Tuesday announced the decision to extend the strict weekend lockdown for another three weeks as hospitals in the area continue to struggle to cope with Covid-19 patients. In Nice and the French Riviera, residents are still waiting to see if their weekend lockdown will be extended.

Nice was among the first cities in France to impose a weekend lockdown, alongside 62 other towns along the French riviera and Dunkirk in the north. Imposed the last weekend of February, the measure was initially set to last for two weekends. 

The government added Pas-de-Calais to the list last Thursday, and the northern département will remain on lockdown for at least three weekends. The greater Paris region Île-de-France and 22 other areas on “heightened alert” for high Covid rates escaped the restrictive measures.

On Tuesday, the préfecture of the département Nord announced the decision to prolong the measure in the city of Dunkirk, saying the health situation in the city remained “particularly tense” and required “at least” another three weekends of strict lockdown.

While “the first effects of the measures taken are beginning to show,” notably by decreasing the incidence rate in Dunkirk – the number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants – it was too early to ease restrictions, the statement said.

“All intensive care bed today are today occupied” by Covid patients, according to the préfecture. Five patients had to be transferred on Monday, adding up to 90 patient transfers in one month.

All of France is currently on a strict 6pm to 6am curfew, in addition to other general health rules such as mask-wearing outdoors and inside public spaces.

The government has said several times that it wants a weekend lockdown to be a “last resort” in particularly hard-hit areas where hospitals struggle to cope. 

EXPLAINED: What are the rules in the parts of France on weekend lockdown?

Nice’s Mayor Christian Estrosi previously said he believed the health situation to have sufficiently improved to scrap the measure.

“We are already seeing a drop in the incidence rate that should not justify a third weekend of lockdown,” Estrosi told the local newspaper Nice Matin.

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France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body has outlined how Covid-19 rules will change on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules will relax in France as the country ends compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes will take effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 will return to normal on February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 will have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that will begin in February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.