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FRENCH GOVERNMENT

Inquiry launched in France over ‘clandestine’ Covid-defying dinners for the elite

A report by a French television channel alleging "clandestine" luxury dinners in Paris despite the pandemic has sparked an investigation and a political furore over the claims the elite were brazenly ignoring rules they themselves had set.

Inquiry launched in France over 'clandestine' Covid-defying dinners for the elite
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said those involved in such dinners should be prosecuted if the allegations in the report were true. Photo: Christophe Petit-Tesson / POOL / AFP

The M6 private channel on Friday broadcast a reportage based on footage recorded with a hidden camera purportedly from a clandestine restaurant in a high-end area of Paris where neither the staff nor the diners were wearing masks.

All restaurants and cafes remain closed in France for eating in and the country this week began a new limited nationwide lockdown to deal with surging Covid-19 infections.

The hashtag #OnVeutLesNoms (We Want the Names) went viral on Twitter, as speculation swirled over who may have attended such dinners.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said Sunday that a criminal probe had been opened after the reportage into putting the lives of others at risk.

The investigation would assess “if these evenings were organised in defiance of health rules and to determine who were the possible organisers and participants.”

One source interviewed by M6, whose identity was not revealed and whose voice was distorted, told the channel that such evenings had taken place and guests present had even included ministers.

READ ALSO: France to ban outdoor drinking under new virus restrictions

The source was later identified by media and bloggers as Pierre-Jean Chalençon, who runs the luxury Palais Vivienne event venue in the centre of Paris.

In statement sent to AFP through his lawyer late Sunday, Chalençon implicitly acknowledged he was the source but also appeared to retract the claim ministers were involved, saying he was only showing “humour” and the “sense of the absurd”.

But the report was no laughing matter for members of the government, days after President Emmanuel Macron ordered new restrictions including a brief closure of schools to keep cases down before the effects of the vaccine drive kick in.

READ ALSO: France closes schools for 3 weeks and extends partial lockdown across whole country

Chalençon had been recorded saying in February that government spokesman Gabriel Attal, a rising cabinet star, would be attending such a dinner. Attal vehemently denied the claim.

But deputy interior minister Marlene Schiappa told French TV that if ministers or lawmakers were involved “they should be fined and penalised like any other citizen”.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire insisted: “All the ministers, without exception, respect the rules.”

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said those involved in such dinners should be prosecuted if the allegations in the report were true.

“There are not two types of citizens — those who have the right to party and those who do not,” he said.

Member comments

  1. Ahhhhh….. now I know I have been wrong all that time thinking masks are useless! Macron wears one all the time…….. how did he get covid I wonder…….?

  2. With all that is happening in France and the world, is this all these people have to worry about, bloody dinner parties. What about the proposal to legalise assisted dying for people with incurable diseases which has been blocked in the French parliament, largely by five opposition party MPs? I would have thought that this is more relevant to peoples lives then a few dinner parties.

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COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The Minister of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, said she is “asking the French to wear masks on public transport once again” during an interview with RTL on Monday, June 27th. She also recommended wearing a mask in all other enclosed crowded areas, as a “civic gesture.” However, she did not refer to the request as a government mandated obligation.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

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