France announces restrictions on gatherings ahead of New Year and orders home-working

After recording more than 100,000 new Covid cases in a single day, France has announced extra restrictions ahead of the New Year weekend, including limits on gatherings.

New year fireworks in Paris
New Year fireworks and concerts have already been cancelled in most French towns. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

Prime minister Jean Castex and health minister Olivier Véran held a press conference on Monday evening after a special meeting of the Defence Council, chaired by Emmanuel Macron.

Describing the health services as “under great pressure”, Castex announced the following extra measures:

  • Indoor gatherings of more than 2,000 people are banned, and outdoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people.
  • The closure of nightclubs, which has been in place since early December, has been prolonged.
  • Most local authorities had already banned New Year’s Eve concerts and fireworks displays, but the ban on gatherings announced by Jean Castex on Monday evening also includes a ban on concerts with standing audiences.
  • The consumption of food and drink is also banned in a number of venues where large groups gather, including at sports events and stadiums, in cinemas and concert halls and on all public transport, including long-distance trains.
  • Table-seating only in cafés and bars 
  • For private gatherings on New Year’s Eve there are no extra restrictions, but the recommendations remain in place – keep gatherings small, ventilate rooms, where masks where possible and test in advance of the gathering.
  • All ceremonies de vouex (New Year ceremonies held by local officials and some companies) will be cancelled
  • From January 3rd, remote working will become compulsory for all workers who can, for a minimum of three days a week and a recommendation of four days a week.

Castex also announced that from Tuesday morning, people will be able to get a booster shot three months after their last vaccination rather than four months as was the case previously.

President Emmanuel Macron chaired a meeting – remotely from his holiday home on the French Riviera – of the Defence Council on Monday afternoon, at which new measures were agreed.

On Saturday, health officials recorded 104,611 cases over the previous 24 hours, the third consecutive day the numbers have been record highs.


Some of the increase could be accounted for by extra testing, as French people were advised to take precautionary tests before travelling to visit relatives or getting together with friends over the festive period, but the more contagious Omicron variant is becoming dominant across France.

Health minister Oliver Véran said that Covid case numbers are doubling every two days and warned of a “mega wave” when the fifth wave of cases of the Delta variant of the virus collides with the new wave of Omicron cases.


He said the government was considering changing the conditions of self-isolation for people infected with the Omicron variant, in order to avoid potentially “paralysing” services and businesses, but wanted more time to study international data. He said an announcement would be made on this probably after December 31st.

Hospitalisations are also rising with more more than 3,000 Covid patients now in intensive care, an indicator of increasing pressure on the health services.

Castex said that the “immense majority” of those hospitalised with the most severe form of the virus were either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

Véran said that 190 children are currently hospitalised with Covid – 35 of them in intensive care – but added that every year thousands of children are hospitalised with common infections including gastro bugs and bronchitis. 

He said: “Each year, bronchitis leads to the hospitalitation of 23,000 children. 14,000 children are admitted to hospital every year with gastroenteritis. There are more children at the moment in hospital with bronchitis than with a bad form of covid. Each year, there are on average 2-3000 children in ICU because of bronchitis.”

However, France has opened up vaccination to all children aged 5 and above. 

Member comments

  1. Sensible!

    And finally some attention is given to consumption of food in public settings – this should have been forbidden from March 2020. I lost count of times where people would pretend to eat or drink on a train, so that they can keep their masks off for the entire journey.

    1. Here in South Australia, it is a requirement to wear a mask in a cinema, unless eating or drinking. Have never seen so many people making their drinks and food last for the entire movie, just so they didn’t have to mask up. The pandemic has certainly highlighted how we don’t give a toss about anyone else, it is all about individual rights being asserted. We have become a world of, “I am alright, Jack’s”.

  2. When the booster was last reduced to 4 months, it was still only available after 3 Jan . Has that now changed ?

  3. “President Emmanuel Macron chaired a meeting – remotely from his holiday home on the French Riviera”
    So why didn’t he lead by example and stay in Paris. A bit like all the British that rushed to get here before the deadline, but hey, we just had to see our relations for Christmas and sod everybody else. What a selfish society it is now.

    1. The British that ‘rushed here’ were all fully jabbed and tested – unlike many of the resident French population – so what’s your problem Boggy ? You need to make some New Year resolutions to help instil a bit more magnanimity !

      1. My problem is, why anyone with the slightest bit of intelligence would want to have holidays in the middle of a virus outbreak.

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France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

France's public health body has outlined how Covid-19 rules will change on February 1st, including an end to compulsory self-isolation after a positive test result.

France scraps compulsory self-isolation after positive Covid test

Starting on February 1st, Covid rules will relax in France as the country ends compulsory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.

However, those travelling from China to France will still be required to agree to a random screening upon arrival and to isolate in the case of a positive Covid-19 test result. Travellers aged 11 and over coming from China must also provide a negative test result (less tan 48 hours) prior to boarding and those aged six and over must agree to wear a mask on board flights. These regulations – which was set to last until January 31st – is set to remain in place until February 15th.

The French public health body (The Direction générale de la santé or DGS)  announced the change on Saturday in a decree published in the “Journal Officiel” outlining the various ways the body will loosen previous coronavirus restrictions.

READ MORE: What Covid rules and recommendations remain for visiting France?

Those who were in contact with someone who tested positive – ie a contact cases – will also no longer be required to take a test, though the public health body stressed that both testing after contact and isolating after receiving a positive test remain recommended.

Previously, even asymptomatic people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to test on the second day after being notified that they were a “contact-case”.

These changes will take effect on February 1st.

READ MORE: What changes in France in February 2023?

The DGS also said that website SI-DEP, which records test results, will remain in operation until June 30th, however starting in February it will only collect personal data with the express permission of the patient.

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Additionally, the French government announced that sick leave procedures for people with Covid-19 will return to normal on February 1st – this means that those who test positive for Covid-19 will have the three-day wait period before daily sick benefits are required to be paid, as is usually the case. Previously, people with Covid-19 could expect daily sick benefits to begin at the start of their sick leave period (arrêt maladie in French).  

READ MORE: How sick leave pay in France compares to other countries in Europe

Covid tests are still available on walk-in basis from most pharmacies are are free to people who are fully vaccinated and registered in the French health system. Unvaccinated people, or visitors to France, have to pay up to a maximum of €22 for an antigen test of €49 for a PCR test. 

If you recently tested positive for Covid-19 in France – or you suspect you may have contracted Covid-19 – you can find some information for how to proceed here.

In explaining the changes that will begin in February, the French public health body also noted a drop in Covid-19 infections in the past month. As of January 30th, approximately 3,800 people in France had tested positive in the previous 24 hours for the coronavirus – which represents a decrease from the averages of 20,000 new cases per day about one month ago.