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France’s prime minister confirms travel restrictions to end from May 3rd

The peak of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in France "appears to be behind us", Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday, and travel restrictions within the country will be eased from early next month.

France's prime minister confirms travel restrictions to end from May 3rd
French Prime Minister Jean Castex in front of a graphic showing the pressure on hospital intensive care wards in France, at the press conference where he confirmed plans to begin progressively reopen closed sectors in May. Photo: Ludovic MARIN / various sources / AFP

Castex told a press conference there had been a “genuine fall in the circulation of the virus over the last 10 days”, confirming that restrictions confining people to a 10-kilometre radius of their homes would be dropped from May 3rd.

When France was placed into partial lockdown at the start of April it was intended to be a short-term measure to halt the growth of Covid cases and relieve pressure on hospitals.

Although case numbers remain high and some hospitals under severe pressure, the rates have stopped rising and have plateaued, which the government believes to be enough to begin a gradual reopening.

Castex confirmed that, from May 3rd, attestations (permission forms) will no longer be required for outings longer than 10km from the home, and there would be no limit on how far people can travel from home.

However he didn’t give a date for when the nationwide nighttime curfew, that has been in place since December, would end.

“The curfew will be maintained until further notice,” Castex said.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin also laid out the conditions for the strict new quarantine in place from Saturday for arrivals from India, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and South Africa as well as the French overseas territory of French Guiana (full details below).

PM Castex also confirmed that further reopening of things like shops and café terraces would be done on a localised basis, because of the wide variation in case numbers between regions of France.

The prime minister said: “We want to begin (easing lockdown) around mid-May. But due to the fragile health situation, it needs to be done progressively.”

He said the reopening “could start with café and bar terraces, certain sporting and cultural activities and certain shops.

“The list is not final, and it could be done through a regionalised framework,” he said.

A fuller timetable will come “in the coming days”, he added. French media have reported that President Emmanuel Macron intends to make another televised announcement to lay out the full timetable.

Primary schools would reopen on Monday April 26th the government confirmed with secondary schools reopening one week later on May 3rd. Although in départements where the virus is still circulating widely such as Paris and the surrounding area only 50 percent of classes in some year groups would return to in-school classes. The other 50 percent of pupils would continue distance learning.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer confirmed that string health protocol would remain in place in schools and that classes would close as soon as one Covid case was detected. Some 400,000 Covid tests would be carried out in schools and auto-tests would be made  available to staff and high school students.

There were 5,981 people with coronavirus in intensive care in France on Thursday, official data showed, with the figure to the relief of the authorities flattening out below 6,000 over the last days.

A total of 102,164 people have died in France from the pandemic but, after a slow start, the vaccine campaign is gaining pace with over 13 million people now given at least a first dose.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said that France would begin offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only a single shot, from Saturday to people aged 55 and over.

It will be the fourth vaccine being offered by France after Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

MAP: Where in France has the lowest Covid cases?

Interior Minister Darmanin confirmed the full details of France’s strictest quarantine measures yet, which will be fully enforced from Saturday for arrivals from the 5 ‘high risk’ countries plus the French overseas département of French Guiana, which borders Brazil

The following measures are in place for all travellers over the age of 11:

  • Anyone travelling from India, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Brazil or French Guiana must get either a PCR test 36 hours before travel OR a PCR test 72 hours before travel followed by a rapid-result antigen test 24 hours before travel
  • Travellers then take another antigen test on arrival in France, and confirm to border guards that they will observe a 10-day quarantine, providing an address where they will be quarantining
  • Police will then check the address provided during the 10 days to ensure the quarantine is being enforced
  • Essential errands may be done only between 10am and 12 noon, anyone not at the address provided outside those hours will be deemed in breach of quarantine and fined
  • Fines range from €1,000 to €1,500

READ ALSO These are the new quarantine rules for arrivals from ‘high risk’ countries

Member comments

  1. Why would you have a grand re-opening if the figures are not even falling ? It doesn’t sound like the public health is the top priority here.

  2. Agreed.

    This does not make sense. School breaks and multiple Public Holidays in May mean school age children and young adults, for whom there is still no vaccination solution, will spread infection.

    It sounds like through May there will not be much reduction in the level of a continuing high level plateau of ICU reanimation bed occupancy. A few more businesses may partially open, but other essential medical care will still be delayed due to medical resources being occupied by Covid.

    1. What is the need to keep maternelle and primaire schools closed? Young kids are still the least likely to spread the virus to adults. If schools weren’t closed, they would just see each other in private homes, everybody unmasked, AND miss out on a proper education. Take a look at other places around the world that kept schools closed much longer than France. They still have similar or higher death rates than France does.

      1. I agree. I think France did the right thing in keeping schools open mostly. However I think
        lockdown+schools, and local travel only or with attestation for longer distance, should be kept a bit longer as we remain at such a high % of hospital capacity.

        Young adults and children do transmit the disease even though they personally so far suffer less from it.

        Freedom for the Public Holidays in May is still too risky, is what I meant.

        1. In that case, they need to do a full, actual lockdown and not partial. But that is not going to happen, so it is better that kids are in school than not.

    1. As of today your Government has moved France, the UK, Germany and some other countries to Level 4 the “Americans should not travel to these countries” level, apparently.

      1. Correction, Karen : The US government has not forbidden Americans from travel to France. The Center for Disease Control ( an independent organization) has recommended that Americans should not travel to France. It’s the French government ( under EU recommendations) which has prohibited travel from the US with some exceptions as The Local has described,

  3. The 10km rule probably makes sense to Parisians, as usual, but not out where many of us live.
    The two towns where we usually go for shopping, especially for things not available locally, are 12km and 16km away respectively. However, because it necessitates crossing a departmental boundary, we can go to another town 19km away.

    So we ignore the rule and go where we normally do, albeit with an attestation and ready to talk our way out of any controls, but the Gendarmerie don’t seem to be bothering anyway. They probably think it’s as nonsensical as we do.

    I won’t mention where we live!

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MONEY

Revealed: What will you receive from France’s €65bn cost-of-living aid package?

The French parliament has finally passed a massive €65 billion package of measures aimed at helping French residents with the spiralling cost of living. Here's a rundown of the help on offer, who it's available to and when it comes into effect.

Revealed: What will you receive from France's €65bn cost-of-living aid package?

After three weeks of sometimes heated debate, France’s parliament has adopted its multi-part purchasing power package to help mitigate rising cost of living and inflation.

In total, parliament approved a budget of nearly €65 billion for the whole package. 

It includes a raft of measures including price shields, tax rebates and grants. Here’s what is included and who will benefit.

Electricity and gas The government has voted to extend the tariff shield on gas and electricity prices until the end of the year: this means that gas prices will continue to remain frozen and that price hikes for electricity prices will be capped at four percent. 

For who: This applies to everyone who has a gas or electricity account in France.

When: The price freeze is already in effect and will continue until at least December 31st.

Fuel subsidy – The government’s fuel rebate (on petrol/gasoline and diesel) will be increased from €0.18 per litre to €0.30 in September and October, and then in November and December it will fall to €0.10. 

For who: All drivers (including tourists) – this is applied automatically at all fuel stations in France

When: The €0.18 per litre rebate is already in place and remains until August 31st, and rises to €0.30 on September 1st.

Pensions – The index point for pensions will be raised by four percent.

Who: This covers anyone who receives a French pension – roughly 14 million people – it does not affect anyone who gets a pension from another country.

When: From September 9th. 

Abolishing the TV licence fee – The annual TV licence raised €3.7 billion a year for public broadcasting, with the majority having gone toward France Télévisions, but has now been scrapped. It was €138 per household. 

For who: Any household with a television. This equates to about 23 million households in France who will no longer have to pay this yearly tax.

When: The was due to be levied on November 15th, but this year no bills will be sent out.

Tripling the Macron bonus – The maximum annual bonus – which is exempt from income and social security taxes – will be tripled.

It is a one time, tax-free payout that can be given to workers by their employers – if they chose to. Companies will now be able to pay up to €3,000 to their employees (and up to €6,000 for those with a profit-sharing scheme).

Who: This pertains to salariés (employees) whose businesses choose to offer this bonus.

When: The bonus can be paid between August 1st and December 31st.

Rent cap – Rent increases will be limited to 3.5 percent per year for existing tenants. Some cities already have in place their own rent control schemes, but the 3.5 percent cap is nationwide.

Who – This affects anyone who already has a tenancy agreement for a property in France (and also affects all landlords who are banned from making big rent hikes).

When – The 3.5 percent cap concerns annual rent increases that fall between July 2022 and June 2023.

Housing allowance – Those who benefit from personalised assistance for housing (APL) will see that increased by 3.5 percent.

Who: This pertains to those who qualify for governmental financial assistance with rent. Typically, this means low-income households. If you are already on APL – around 3.5 million people – the increase will be automatic, if you think you might qualify, apply through your local CAF.

When: The increase comes in your next payment, with the increased rate backdated to July 1st 2022.

Social benefits – The RSA top-up benefit will be increased by four percent (local authorities, who deal with RSA, will receive €600 million to help them finance and allocate this increase). Additionally, those who benefit from the ‘prime d’activité‘ (activity bonus) will see that value raised by four percent as well.

Who: Unemployed people below the age of 25 can qualify for RSA – this pertains to about 1.9 million people in France. The activity bonus is available to low-income workers – about 4.3 million people.

When: Catch-up payments will be in place from August 18th to September 5th. On September 5th, the updated payment will begin to be paid out.

Student grants – An increase of 4 percent for student grants (bourses) for higher education

Who: Students under the age of 28 who qualify for financial assistance in the form of grants. These students must qualify as ‘financially precarious’ for the school year of 2022-2023.

When: September 2022

Back-to-school grants – Families who meet certain income requirements are eligible for an allowance to help cover back-to-school costs – that grant will increase by four percent this year. There will also be an extra €100 subsidy for eligible families (with an additional €50 per child) paid “to those who need it most” according to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire in an interview with RTL. 

Who: Low-income families with children. You can test your family’s eligibility on the website www.service-public.fr. This aid will impact 10.8 million households.

When: The one time payment will be paid at the start of the school-year in September.

The option to convert overtime days into extra cash – This is encompassed in two measures: increasing the ceiling of tax exempt overtime hours to €7,500 and opening the possibility for companies to buy back RTT days from their employees.

Eligible employees covered by the 35-hour week agreement accrue time in lieu if they work overtime, known as RTT days. Currently this time is taken as extra vacation days, but now employees will have the option to forgo the time off and instead be paid extra.

Who: For the buying back of RTT days, this applies to employees (salariés) who have an RTT agreement with their company.

For the increased cap on non-taxed overtime work, this applies to a range of employees, such as those who have 35-hour per week contracts and have their employer request that they work overtime or those who work beyond their part-time contract amount. You can learn more about whether you have the ability to declare overtime hours HERE

When: The RTT days buyout will run from between January 1st, 2022 to December 31st, 2025. For employees eligible for tax-free overtime compensation, the ceiling of €7,500 will only be in place for the year 2022.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why is France’s 35-hour week such a sacred cow?

Pay rise for public sector workers – public sector pay will get a four percent rise in the index.

Who: Anyone employed in France as a fonctionnaire (eg civil servants, teachers, librarians).

When: This will be retroactive to July 1st

Assistance for some self-employed workers – A reduction in health and maternity insurance contributions will be introduced for low-earning self-employed workers. “Microentrepreneurs” will also benefit from a reduction in their flat-rate contributions.

Who: Self-employed workers whose monthly income does not exceed 1.6 times the minimum wage and who are registered as ‘microentrepeneurs’

When: TBC

The biometric carte vitale –  The Senate introduced this into the purchasing power package, but it is not a benefit. It will involve the implementation of a biometric carte vitale health card to “fight against social fraud” by adding an electronic chip with biometric data on it to health insurance cards. You can read more HERE.

Who: Everyone who is registered in the French health system and has a carte vitale (about 60 million people)

When: Lawmakers will begin plans to implement the plans in Autumn 2022, but it’s not clearly exactly what form the rollout will take.

How much will these measures impact inflation?

Some measures will likely be more effective than others. For instance, the extension of the tariff shield and increase of the fuel rebate in the early fall is largely to thank for France’s inflation level being two points lower than the European average, according to INSEE.

On the other hand, the tripling of the ceiling for the (optional) Macron bonus will likely not make a large difference. This is because it will likely not be widely taken advantage of, as last year only 4 million French people received the optional bonus, with the approximate average of the bonus having been only €500.

The pension changes will impact about 14.8 million people in France. However, according to economist Christopher Dembik, the revalorsation values are based on actual inflation and not on inflation expectations. “These revaluation measures will be too weak by the time they will be implemented,” Dembik said to French daily Le Parisien.

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