During France’s first lockdown in the spring the rule on socialising was clear – don’t.
However since then things have become more complicated and now depend on where you live, where you want to socialise, how many people you are meeting and what time it is.
Here’s a look at the rules and what the government advises you to do.
The whole of France is now under a 7pm to 6am curfew (moved back one hour from Saturday, March 20th), any trip out of the home after 7pm requires both an attestation permission form and a vital reason, and socialising does not count as one of these reasons.
However the rule only concerns trips out, so technically if you went to visit a friend at 6.45pm and then stayed the night, leaving after 6am the next morning that could be allowed, depending on where you live (more on that below).
France is now split into two zones – 16 départements which are under a ‘lockdown light’ and the remaining 80 départements which are not. The rules on daytime socialising are different depending on which of those areas you live in.
In non-lockdown zones socialising during the day is allowed, both indoors and outdoors.
Outdoors there are limits on the size of gatherings with police authorised with break up gatherings of more than 6 people, while anyone attending a large gathering risks a fine and the organisers of large gatherings can be arrested. But meeting a few friends or family members for a picnic or BBQ is allowed, and is in fact recommended as being a lower risk than meeting indoors.
For indoor gatherings the ‘rule of 6’ applies – a recommendation that people limit gatherings to six adults, plus children. However this is a recommendation and not a rule. People meeting indoors are also advised to keep windows open or regularly ventilate the room.
If you live in one of the 16 départements on ‘lockdown light’ the rules on socialising are slightly different.
During the day you won’t need a permission form stating your reason for being out as long as you stay within 10 km of home (although you should have ID and proof of address on you in case you are stopped by police) and there is no limit to how long you can be out of the home, as there was during previous lockdowns.
Announcing the new rules, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that the relaxation on trips out “must not become an excuse for BBQs with friends or gatherings in public spaces, parks or gardens”.
However after a weekend of widespread confusion over the rules on socialising, on Monday night the government launched an information campaign with the message ‘indoors on my own, outdoors as a responsible citizen’.
Essentially the guideline (rather than rule) is that people should not meet up indoors.
People can meet up outdoors in groups of six or less, but having picnics or BBQs is not advised, masks should be worn and physical distancing observed.
Dedans avec les miens, dehors en citoyen. pic.twitter.com/uEQkgoUE7f
— Jean Castex (@JeanCASTEX) March 22, 2021
Rule of 6
As noted above, the rule of 6, despite its name, is not actually a rule.
The French government attempted to impose a limit on private gatherings over the summer but this was ruled unconstitutional so gatherings in private home now have no upper limit, although common sense suggests that keeping gatherings small is less risky.
In general, the government’s advice is to keep socialising to a minimum and if you do meet up, it’s better to do so outdoors.
Socialising with people in high-risk groups like the elderly is generally advised against (unless they have received both doses of the vaccine) and people who are are travelling to see grandparents or others in a high-risk group are advised to get a test and self-isolate for eight days before travel in order to be on the safe side.