France has been on a strict nationwide lockdown since March 17th in an attempt to contain the Coronavirus outbreak. On May 11th France is ready for a partial lifting of their lockdown.
As of the date of this posting, France (population 65 million people) has had 137,224 (0.26% of the population) infections of COVID-19. Reporting deaths 25,812 (14.8% of infections) and 54,081 have recovered (31% of infections).
Here are some interesting factoids that have occurred so far in the French Coronavirus lockdown:
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, presented a partial lifting of the lockdown to the French parliament on Tuesday, stressed this again and added that the plan, as presented, depends on there being no more than 3,000 new cases a day by May 11th. A nationally televised presentation was given at 16hr local time. Please see the presentation below:
This is phase 1, which runs from May 11th to June 2nd. Details for the next phase will be outlined later and will depend on how phase 1 goes. “I will address the French people at the end of May to evaluate the conditions in which we organize the next phase of the easing of restrictions, and we will make decisions on the organization of cafés, restaurants, and holidays,” said Philippe.
Here are the currently understood restrictions on the partial French lockdown lifting:
Permission form – The attestation de déplacement dérogatoire – the form that everybody currently has to carry every time they leave their home – will not be needed, apart from for journeys over 100km.
All journeys of more than 100km will require a permission certificate. Journeys of more the 100km are discouraged and will only be allowed under similar rules as now – for essential motives such as crucial work travel or family reasons. Family visits do not qualify as a reason to travel more than 100km, and the Prime Minister urged people to continue to protect elderly relatives by not visiting them.
Work – At present more than 10 million people in France cannot work, but it seems that the majority of them will be going back to work after May 11th – albeit with conditions in place. Anyone who can work from home is asked to continue doing so for the weeks ahead.
People who cannot work from home will start to return to work, but employers must put in place social distancing measures in the workplace – this could include operating staggered shifts (which would ask help reduce rush-hour crowds on public transport) or bringing people back on a part-time basis, to begin with.
Shops – All shops will be able to reopen from May 11th, but they must put in place social distancing measures first.
This will include limiting the number of people allowed in, putting in place markers to indicate distances when queuing and providing protective equipment such as masks for staff – in short, the same way that the essential stores that have been allowed to open during lockdown have operated. Local officials will have the power to prevent a shop reopening if they judge it cannot operate in a safe and socially distanced way.
Masks are recommended for shoppers and shops can require their customers to wear masks. Big shopping centers and markets can reopen unless local authorities decide there is a reason to keep them closed.
Travel within France – Travel will again be possible but only within a 100km limit. People won’t be free to make long-distance trips around the country, unless for essential reasons. Journeys of more than 100km are allowed for essential professional or family reasons. The country’s high-speed TGV trains will be running, but at a reduced capacity and by prior reservation only, in order to discourage travel. Philippe added: “This is not the time to take a weekend trip.” It will also be compulsory to wear a mask on public transport, and fines are still in place.
International travel – Travel into France is currently strictly regulated and for essential reasons only, and there was no mention of a plan to change this. President Emmanuel Macron has already said the EU’s borders to non-EU countries will not reopen on May 11th.
Red and green zones – But even if it goes ahead, lockdown lifting will not look the same everywhere. Throughout the last week, the Health Ministry has been publishing daily maps showing the virus circulation and hospital situation in each of France’s 101 départements.
These maps have until now been preliminary, but on Thursday, each département will get a formal designation of red – for the areas where there are still a lot of cases, and the hospitals are under pressure – and green for areas where the situation is less serious. Initially, there won’t be big differences in the rules for red and green départements – some differences in school returns and whether parks and gardens can reopen – but the designation could affect future rules. Here are the zones, though it changes often – click here:
Public transport – Several local officials, including those in Paris, have proposed that people on public transport at rush hour will need a certificate from their employers stating that it is necessary for them to travel to work at this time, and their work cannot be done from home. It is anticipated that Philippe could pass a decree to this effect, but leave the choice of whether to implement it up to local authorities. Many trains will require face masks and run at around 50% capacity depending on the region.
Quarantine – Philippe has already been forced to row back on his initial plan for compulsory quarantine/self-isolation for anyone in France who tests positive for the virus. Large sporting events, entertainment, and parks will remain closed until September. No more than groups of 10 will be allowed.
International travel – This wasn’t part of the PM’s initial plan but over the weekend there was much confusion when health minister Olivier Véran announced a compulsory quarantine for anyone entering France, followed by a rapid clarification from the president’s office that this only applied to people traveling from outside Europe.
Re-lockdown plan – It was revealed that there is a parallel plan in place to reimpose the lockdown if the health situation gets worse. Expect this to be at least alluded to as the PM will stress that everything about this first phase depends on the health situation, and all measures can be canceled or reversed if there is a renewed spike in cases.
Reopening bars, cafés or restaurants – Philippe has already said that there will be no decision on reopening bars, cafés or restaurants until the end of May while on the question of summer holidays and travel several politicians – including president Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday – have repeated that is is too early to say.
Do note that this Coronavirus un-lockdown plan is a moving target.
The French people have calmed down a bit because they believe the lifting of the lockdown is nigh. One can see more people and cares on the street in this anticipation – police are less controlling at this point.
This has not stopped violent incidents with police officers. One officer was hit in the arm by an explosion, and another was wounded in the face after being punched. The incident comes after riots broke out in Paris last month amid anger over police ‘heavy-handed’ treatment of ethnic minorities during the coronavirus lockdown.
The French really had no choice but to do this partial lockdown or face massive riots. If the country should go into a re-lockdown scenario, this violence could return – with increased fervor. We shall watch and see how this goes.