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French insurance giant agrees to pay €300m to restaurants over Covid closures

French insurance giant Axa said on Thursday that it would pay €300 million to some 15,000 restaurants fighting to have at least part of their losses due to Covid lockdowns covered by their policies.

French insurance giant agrees to pay €300m to restaurants over Covid closures
Restaurants had taken the insurer to court over their refusal to pay out. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

The agreement comes as Axa has faced several lawsuits from restaurant owners saying the insurer is trying to back out of its contractual obligations, putting their livelihoods at risk.

Most of the lawsuits so far have been successful.

“I’m sorry about all that has happened, because we were at odds with restaurants over a misunderstanding,” Axa’s chief executive Thomas Buberl told Europe 1 radio, noting that some appeals courts rulings had been in Axa’s favour.

“We’re offering a settlement to lots of people who haven’t asked for anything, even those who have lost in court will be able to be part of it,” he said.

Restaurants were allowed to start serving patrons indoors on Wednesday for the first time since October, as France emerges from a third coronavirus lockdown.

The government has unlocked billions of euros in aid for restaurants and other businesses forced to close in a bid to slow contagion rates.

But industry officials say thousands of eateries are facing huge debt piles and the prospect of crimped revenues in the months to come since capacity levels remain capped for now.

Axa’s clients sought relief via their policies that covered “administrative closures” for a variety of reasons, including health shutdowns.

Axa refused, citing a clause specifying that any shutdown had to apply only to the individual restaurant covered, which excluded closures due to a generalised health emergency.

The company says some 1,500 suits have been filed, the first by the Parisian restaurateur Stephane Manigold, who obtained €70,000 in May 2020 to cover losses at his Michelin two-star Maison Rostang and three other restaurants.

“This response is not compensation, it’s a transaction,” Buberl added.

“We want to accompany our restaurant clients during this reopening period, and it’s important to put this difficulty behind us,” he said.

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COVID-19

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).

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