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WHAT CHANGES IN FRANCE

This week in France: What you need to know

The end of the festive holidays in France will be ushered in with new Covid rules at schools and in the workplace. Here's what you need to know about the week ahead.

A man looks at the Eiffel Tower during sunset.
A man looks at the Eiffel Tower during sunset. The end of the Christmas holidays in France will be ushered in with a raft of new Covid measures. (Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP)

Monday 

Remote working rules come into force

The government is enforcing new remote working rules for a period of at least three weeks to avoid the spread of Covid-19, amid record new case numbers. The regulations say that for situations where it is possible, companies should adopt a minimum of three remote working days per week – with four remote days the target. Businesses face tough sanctions if they fail to follow the new protocol, with a fine of €1,000 per employee not conforming to rules. 

Back to school 

Children across France return to school on Monday – even though some politicians had called for the holidays to be extended in light of the ongoing Covid pandemic. Last week the government announced rigorous new testing requirements for pupils when a classmate tests positive. 

READ MORE France set to introduce new Covid testing rules for schoolchildren

Venue limits enforced 

Most local authorities cancelled the traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks and concerts. From Monday capacity limits of 2,000 people for inside events and 5,000 people for outside events, will be introduced. The limits do not apply to industry fairs, zoos or theme parks. They also do not apply to political rallies, for reasons you can read more about HERE

Vaccine pass to be debated in National Assembly

The French government hopes to transform the health pass into a vaccine pass by mid-January but must first get approval from the parliament. Monday marks the start of the debate over whether to adopt this measure, which would mean that a negative test will not be accepted as a a means of gaining entry to various public venues. 

READ MORE What will change when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass?

New mask wearing rules

Children over the age of six-years-old will have to wear masks in certain public spaces including markets and public transport according to a decree published on Saturday. Previously, this rule only applied to those over 11-years-old. This regulation does not apply to artistic and sporting activities.

Masks will also be required in all town centres.

READ MORE LATEST: Where to wear a face mask in France

New self-isolation rules 

The amount of time you need to spend self isolating if you are a contact case or have tested positive for Covid-19 is decreasing from Monday. If you are over 12-years-old, fully vaccinated and have tested positive, you must now self isolate for five days and if you take a negative test on the fifth day and have been asymptomatic for the last 48 hours, you can leave self isolation. You can read more about the new rules HERE

Ministerial Covid meeting 

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has called a ministerial meeting at 4pm to reassess the country’s Covid situation. French media report that hospitals, schools, transport, the armed forces, law enforcement and the energy sector will all be discussed. It is unclear whether new measures will emerge as a result of this meeting.

Wednesday 

Health Defence Council meeting 

France’s Health Defence Council holds its regular Wednesday meeting to discuss the ongoing pandemic and whether new measures are needed.

Thursday 

Galette du Rois 

Thursday, January 6th marks the Christian festival of Epiphany. This is not a public holiday in France (unlike neighbouring Spain where they go mad for the Three Kings), but the day is marked with a special cake – the Galette des rois – which has a lot of fun and complicated rituals for consumption.

READ ALSO: Galette des Rois- Everything you need to know about France’s royal tart

Friday 

Michel Houellebecq to release highly anticipated political thriller 

Top-selling French author Michel Houellebecq returns to the subject of politics and power in his eighth novel, which is to appear in French bookshops on Friday. The thriller is set during a fictional presidential election campaign in 2027, with characters who have clear resemblances to current politicians, including President Macron. Titled Anéantir (“Destroy”), the book will be released on with a large initial print run of 300,000 copies, with translated versions set to appear afterwards. Once the darling of France’s liberal left, Houellebecq has steadily drifted to the right in recent years.

Saturday 

Anti vaccine pass march in Paris 

Opponents of the proposed vaccine pass are set to march in Paris, from Palais Royal to Place Vauban. Florian Philippot, a far-right presidential candidate, is reported to be the key organiser. 

READ ALSO 

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LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in August 2022

The long sultry days of summer are usually fairly quiet in France, as parliament breaks for the summer and huge swathes of the population head to the beach. But 2022 is not an ordinary year - here's what changes in August.

What changes in France in August 2022

End of the health pass

Senators have now ratified a new health bill that formally ends the Covid-19 health emergency and repeals emergency laws introduced at the height of the pandemic.

In practical terms, it means that – from August 1st – the suspended vaccine pass cannot be reimposed, nor can mask mandates, lockdowns, curfews, or other health measures allowed for under emergency legislation. Masks for hospitals and health establishments and on public transport remain ‘strongly recommended’, however, and private businesses as always have the right to require customers to wear a mask.

Mandatory health checks at French borders may, however, be reintroduced if necessary.

No more conseil scientifique

As a consequence of the repeal of the emergency health laws, France’s conseil scientifique (scientific council) which advised the government throughout the Covid-19 crisis, will be disbanded. It currently has no replacement, but a new body for monitoring, anticipating and advising on new health crises may be formed.

Savings

A small boost for savers: the interest rate for the Livret A savings scheme – a tax free instant access savings account available to all – doubles from 1 percent to 2 percent, a level unseen since 2011.

Rates for the Livret d’épargne populaire, meanwhile, will increase from 2.2 percent to 4.6 percent. 

Minimum wage

Due to rising inflation, the minimum wage – known as the Smic – scheme automatically rise by 2.01 percent on August 1st – its fourth increase this year. After taxes and social charges, workers on Smic will see their hourly pay increase from €8.58 to €8.76 – or €1,329 per month for a full-time employee.

Fuel prices

Plans to phase out the 18 cents per litre fuel rebate on petrol (gasoline) and diesel in response to rising oil prices were originally supposed to take effect from July 31st. Good news – the current rate has been extended to August 31st, after which it will be increased to 20c per litre in September and October and then drop to 10c per litre. 

READ ALSO Why this weekend might be a good time to fill up your car in France

Macron bonus

The so-called Macron bonus (prime Macron) – introduced in 2018 as an optional one-off tax and social charge-free bonus given by employers to boost spending power following the Yellow Vest protests and repeated every year since – has been renamed, recalculated and made permanent. 

From August 1st, it will be called the Prime de partage de la valeur, and employees in profit-sharing schemes can receive up to €6,000 as opposed to the current €2,000 maximum. Those not on such schemes can receive up to €3,000. From 2024, the bonus payment will be subject to taxes and social charges.

MPs break

In a normal year, a Parliamentary session runs from the first working day of October to the last working day of June. This is not an ordinary year. France’s National Assembly was supposed to rise for the summer on July 27th. But the current extraordinary session of Parliament has been extended until August 7th to allow for debate on the government’s bill on purchasing power. 

MPs will not return to the hemicyle until October 3rd, with the government deciding not to reconvene parliament in September for the first time in 20 years, to give itself time for consultation on a range of bills.

READ ALSO The 8 signs that August has arrived in France

Public holiday

The Catholic festival of Assumption is a public holiday in France. It is on August 15th which this year is a Monday, allowing a nice long weekend for the people who are still working in August.

School holidays

Schools remain on holiday until the end of August, with kids returning to the classroom on Thursday, September 1st.

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