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‘Attestations’, shop closures and 7pm curfew – what changes in France this weekend?

With Paris and much of northern France back under lockdown, here's a roundup of what has changed in France on Saturday.

'Attestations', shop closures and 7pm curfew - what changes in France this weekend?
This time, book stores can remain open. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

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.

If you have any questions on the curfew or lockdown email us at [email protected]

Curfew

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.

Vaccines

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.

Lockdown zones

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;

  • Aisne
  • Nord
  • Oise
  • Pas-de-Calais
  • Somme 
  • Paris
  • Seine-et-Marne
  • Yvelines
  • Essonne
  • Hauts-de-Seine
  • Seine-Saint-Denis
  • Val-de-Marne
  • Val-d’Oise 
  • Alpes-Maritimes
  • Eure 
  • Seine-Maritime 

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.

‘Attestations’

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. 

Schools

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.

Shops

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.

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.

Socialising

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

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.

Travel

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.

Work

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.

Member comments

  1. Hi,
    Does anybody know the situation regarding hotels in France – are any open? Because of ferry cancellations we will be driving from Spain to Scotland soon via France but I can’t any definitive information on hotels. Because of the distance we usually have 2 or 3 stopovers so any information would be greatly appreciated.
    Many thanks,
    John.

    1. I drove from Nice to Paris two weeks ago for work and all hotels (motels) on the autoroute north of Lyon were shuttered.
      I have to do the reverse in a week and, based on their web sites, some hotels south of Lyon are open.
      Worst part is driving non-stop for 900kms.

  2. Hi John,
    I stayed in a hotel near Dijon when relocating from the UK to France during the December lockdown and also stayed in two hotels around the Pyrenees region earlier this month.

    I don’t think you’ll have a problem, although you won’t find restaurants open but some hotels will do room service and a little careful planning can result in something being delivered to the hotel as a plan B.

    Good luck!

  3. What are the rules for non-residents travelling through France? I need to drive from Switzerland (where I am resident) to UK (citizen). Can I travel through the northern areas to Calais?

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COVID-19

New Covid wave in autumn ‘virtually certain’ say French experts

The head of the government's new health advisory body says that a surge of Covid cases when the French head back to work after the summer break is virtually certain.

New Covid wave in autumn 'virtually certain' say French experts

Immunologist Brigitte Autran, president of new government health advisory body the Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires (Committee to monitor and anticipate health risks) which has replaced the Conseil scientifique, told Le Parisien that “the Covid epidemic is not behind us” and said that the French would have to get used to “living with” the virus.

The Covidtracker website currently shows that the virus is in decline across France, with the R-rate currently at 0.7 – any figure lower than one indicates that the number of infections is falling.

Autran, whose appointment as head of the new body was confirmed on Wednesday, said that the most likely scenario was for a “new epidemic peak in the autumn”, when people return to work after the summer holidays.

“Will it be due to a new variant or the return of cold weather?” she said. “We are not soothsayers, but it is almost certain that there will be a wave.”

“Today, we must go towards living with it,” she added, reintroducing the French to an expression previously used by President Emmanuel Macron and several ministers.

“This does not mean accepting the deaths or the severity of the disease,” she went on, pointing to the fact that health authorities in France still have “levers to activate” to fight the virus. 

Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent (79.6 percent) of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said that, “unfortunately there are still too many people who have not been vaccinated or revaccinated.”

And she said the new body would work with the government to improve the public’s access to drugs, such as Paxlovid, and vaccines.

Vaccination is still open to anyone who has not yet had their shots, while a second booster shot is on offer to certain groups including over 60s, pregnant women, those with health conditions or people who are in close contact with vulnerable people.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

The French government in August voted to end to State of Emergency that allowed it to impose measures like travel bans and lockdowns, although further restrictions could be put in place if cases rise again and parliament agrees. 

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