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COVID-19

France to ban outdoor drinking under new virus restrictions

Alcoholic drinks will be prohibited in French parks and other outdoor public spaces as part of the new limited nationwide lockdown to stem the Covid-19 crisis, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday.

France to ban outdoor drinking under new virus restrictions
Groups of friends have drinks on the banks of the Seine in Paris, on February 20th. Photo: Bertrand GUAY / AFP

Addressing the National Assembly, Castex also said authorities would be quick to disperse groups of more than six people on riverbanks or squares after the new restrictions unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron late Wednesday.

Castex said he “unreservedly” condemned people who had not been respecting the rules, after images of beer-swigging crowds on riverbanks under spring sunshine in cities including Paris and Lyon.

Meanwhile, prosecutors should “systematically” probe organisers of clandestine parties for putting the lives of others in danger, he added.

By decreeing school closures and systematic work-from-home protocols, Macron hopes to ease pressure on hospitals facing a new surge in coronavirus cases that are overwhelming intensive care units.

But he refrained from demanding that people stay in their homes or avoid socialising completely, and authorised travel between regions over the coming Easter weekend.

As during the first lockdown last spring, parents are scrambling to make arrangements for another round of distance learning with schools to close for three to four weeks.

Macron shuffled the timetable for school holidays and younger children will return to school on April 26th after taking their spring break, and older pupils will follow a week later.

Castex, who provided lawmakers with details of the new measures, said low-income families would receive financial aid for children no longer eating school lunches.

Health Minister Olivier Véran said the number of new Covid cases could peak in the next seven to ten days, while intensive care cases in hospitals might top out by the end of April.

“The goal is to suppress this wave of the epidemic… so that it’s as small as possible,” he told France Inter radio.

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COVID-19

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.

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