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What can we expect from the new Covid restrictions in France?

France's health minister Olivier Véran will hold a press conference on Thursday where he will announce a tightening of restrictions as Covid cases rise - here's what we can expect.

Health minister Olivier Véran will give a press conference on Thursday.
Health minister Olivier Véran will give a press conference on Thursday. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

*To get the latest on the possible new Covid measures in France you can read our updated story HERE.

There is a worrying uptick in Covid-19 cases in France with the current daily average of new infections standing at more than 18,000 – up 84 percent from last week.  Admissions into intensive care are up 35 percent and deaths are up 54 percent.

READ ALSO What is driving the explosion of Covid cases in France?

After a meeting of the Defence Council on Wednesday, government spokesman Gabriel Attal announced that consultations with local authorities about extra measures are now ongoing and a press conference was scheduled for Thursday at midday.

This follows the publication of advice on extra measures from the Scientific Council.

Here’s what we can expect;

Further accelerate vaccination

In France 77.1 percent of the total population and 89.6 percent of the eligible population (aged 12 or above) are vaccinated with at least one dose.

But that still leaves ten percent of the eligible population who are yet to have a single dose – a figure that rises to 13 percent among the over 80s, who are at greater risk anyway because of their age. 

On Saturday, France’s national Scientific Council called on the government to “reinforce first-vaccination efforts, as unvaccinated people are ten times more likely to need hospitalisation and intensive care”. 

READ ALSO Who gets a Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

Expand booster shots

The government already uses the health pass to push people into getting vaccinated and is also pushing a booster dose campaign.

From December 15th, the health passes of over 65s who are eligible for a booster but have not had one will be deactivated. Close to a third of over 65s have already received their third shot. 

Booster doses will be made available to the over 50s from December and it is possible that the government will expand eligibility to other age groups soon. 

Vaccinate children

Another decision on the table is whether to expand the vaccination programme to under 12s. Children aged 6-10 have seen a huge increase in case rates in recent weeks, which is thought to be a factor in the general rise in case numbers.

This is unlikely to be announced this week, as the government will require advice from the medical regulator Haut autorité de Santé, but is likely to be under consideration.

Health pass

The health pass will remain in place and checks on health passes will be stepped up, Attal has announced.

In addition to the deactivation of passes for those who are eligible for a booster but don’t get it, some medics are already calling for the testing option for unvaccinated people to be scrapped.

Stricter mask rules 

For now, the national government has been reluctant to enforce mask wearing in venues where the health pass is used – but that may change. 

The Scientific Council has also called for the government to reintroduce compulsory mask wearing in certain places. 

These rules were relaxed in the autumn, when the government announced that children would not need to wear masks in primary schools in départements with low covid infection rates, although the mask rule was reintroduced on November 15th in schools.

In many areas local authorities have imposed extra mask rules, including for outdoor public spaces and in health pass venues.

READ ALSO Where in France is reintroducing mask rules?

In 26 of France’s 101 départements, local authorities have made masks obligatory even outside according to Sud-Ouest

In many places, masks will also be obligatory at Christmas markets, while they are also required in ski resorts over the winter. 

More working from home

The government has not ruled out a return to guidelines that encouraged businesses to bring in remote working – a measure that the Scientific Council supports. 

The Labour Minister, Élisabeth Borne, has repeatedly called on businesses to respect social distancing measures where possible. The current health protocol says only that businesses should should engage in dialogue with employees to determine the best home working policies.

READ ALSO Télétravail: What are the rules as French workers return to the office?

The number of businesses that have at least one day of home working per week has been steadily declining – with 10 percent in September compared to 19 percent in August. 

Limited social contact

The government has been pretty unequivocal on this one, with government spokesman Gabriel Attal saying: “There is absolutely no lockdown planned for today, soon, or far into the future,” although he did add: “But nothing is ruled out in principle”. 

READ ALSO France ‘can manage fifth Covid wave without extra restrictions’

The Scientific Council calls only for “limitations on gatherings” in its advice, without going into more detail.

Choosing to impose such measures shortly before Christmas would likely be an unpopular political move. But a degrading public health situation would also open the government to criticism. 

A change to testing policy 

Covid tests for “convenience” – ie in order to use the health pass – are no longer free for unvaccinated people – a move that was designed to encourage people to get vaccinated.

The Scientific Council says this is no bad thing, but has also said that people experiencing symptoms should get tested as quickly as possible. Tests for those with symptoms or contact cases remain free, and the Council has called on the government to launch a national communications campaign to reinforce this message.  

READ ALSO How tourists and visitors in France can get a Covid test

The Scientific Council has also called on testing to be reinforced in schools. Given that children under the age of 12 are not eligible to get vaccinated, there is a fear that the virus is spreading rampantly though primary school classrooms. 

Member comments

  1. It is all very well having the health pass but I would estimate that 50% of the bars / restaurants we have visited have NOT checked our health pass. Know of people unvaccinated who have been easily able to go to bars and restaurants knowing that that a pass is not necessary. It is not really the vaccinated people who are at risk because they have a level of immunity. It is totally irresponsible for restaurants etc to allow people in who do not follow the guidelines

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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