On Thursday night, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced new restrictions for 16 areas of France, plus a slight relaxation in the curfew.
Here’s what changed from midnight on Friday, March 19th.
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From Saturday, the curfew moved back one hour, so will be in force from 7pm rather than 6pm and run until 6am. This change affects the whole of France including those areas placed under lockdown, and the PM said was being done to take account of the clocks changing for “summer time” on March 28th. This means that shops will be able to remain open until 7pm, instead of having to close at 6pm.
From Friday afternoon France resumed vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine after a three-day pause, so if you have an appointment with a GP or pharmacy for the jab you should go as planned. Anyone whose appointment was cancelled during the pause will be contacted by the GP or pharmacy to rearrange.
As it was in the summer, the country is now divided into areas which have stricter rules where cases are highest. Sixteen départements have been placed back under lockdown because of high case numbers and severe pressure on local hospitals. The 16 are;
These areas are now in lockdown for four weeks – subject to review of the situation in hospitals – but it’s a more relaxed lockdown than we have had previously in France, with extra exemptions to the rules.
The lockdown applies seven days a week, unlike the weekend lockdowns previously in place in some areas.
Some trips out of the home in these 16 départements will require an exemption certificate or attestation stating the purpose of your trip.
However after widespread criticism of the complexity of the new forms, the French government announced on Saturday that they won’t be needed for any trip out between 6am and 7pm, as long as you stay within 10km of home. Longer trips will still require an attestation. You can find the full explanation for this rather complicated situation HERE.
You can find the form HERE or on the TousAntiCovid app.
As they did during the second lockdown, schools will remain open. High schools (lycées) will move to half online learning, although in many areas this was already the case.
All non-essential shops will close, however the government has expanded the definition of “essential”.
Food shops and pharmacies remain open and takeaways will still be allowed. This time book shops, music shops and hairdressers have all been deemed essential so can stay open. Shops that must close are permitted to offer delivery or “click and collect” services. The government published a full list of shops that can remain open on Friday.
— RTL France (@RTLFrance) March 19, 2021
Exercise and sport
For those areas under lockdown the rules on exercise and getting fresh air have also been relaxed compared to previous confinements, with no time limit on trips out of the home for a walk or a run, although you must stay within 10km of home. Exercising after 7pm is forbidden in the whole of France – both those areas under lockdown and curfew.
Unlike non-lockdown zones, where meeting up with friends or family for lunch, drinks or chat is allowed indoors or outdoors (with a recommended limit of six people) in lockdown areas trips out for social purposes are not allowed.
Parks and gardens in areas under lockdown will stay open, although Castex added: “Making it easier to do outdoor activities should not be a pretext for gathering in group or having barbecues with friends”.
Local authorities will be instructed to ban any gatherings or demonstrations that pose a risk to public health.
“Gatherings in public spaces or in parks and gardens, or gatherings in front of certain bars that serve drinks or take-away food” are also not allowed, the PM added.
Those who live in one of the 16 lockdown zones are not permitted to travel to another region after midnight on Friday, unless they have an essential or work-related reason. People living outside lockdown zones can still travel freely around the country.
Anyone who can work from home should do so, although the exemption allowing people one day a week in the workplace if their mental health is adversely affected by 100 percent home-working remains in place.
Essentially, work patterns will only change for people employed in “non-essential” shops, and government offices remain open.