When France went into lockdown for the second time on 30th October, the President promised a review of the situation after two weeks. So, after a little more than two weeks of Lockdown II, where are we now?
Last week the Prime Minister said the county’s lockdown will continue unchanged for at least the next 15 days – and cafés, bars and gyms are likely to remain closed for longer. The second lockdown currently runs until 1st December, but the government said from the outset that it could be extended if the health situation so demanded.
‘Possible easing’ at beginning of December
Restrictions might be eased for non-essential shops but those first steps won’t include establishments receiving the public such as bars and gyms. Strict limits on trips outside of the home, and the need for permission forms (attestations), will be likely to continue. Thankfully what will also continue is the economic support to all the businesses that have been forced to close.
More police checks
Not all of us are playing by the rules. The PM has confirmed the enforcement of lockdown rules will be stepped up.
Latest data shows that 42,535 Covid-19 patients have died in France since the start of the pandemic – 10,516 of those deaths occurred after 1st October. Currently one person is hospitalised with Covid-19 every 30 seconds, and one person with the virus admitted into intensive care every 3 minutes. One of four deaths in France at present is from Covid-19. Hospital patient numbers have exceeded those at the peak in April.
The government has recently increased the number of intensive care beds from 5,800 currently to 7,700. All this means postponing and cancelling other, less urgent, medical treatments.
Photo: French government, screen shot France Info
Impact of Lockdown II
The PM confirmed the lockdown, a milder version of that imposed on the country in the spring, was having noticeable effects with a lowering of movement of people.
- 22% fewer commuter journeys
- 55% fewer passengers on the Paris Metro
- 45% of private-sector employees working from home for 3.7 days a week or more
- 23% of private-sector employees worked at home full-time
- 40% of public-sector employees (excluding teaching staff and policeforces) worked some days from home
What about Christmas?
Looking ahead to Christmas, the PM said that the government’s objective was to allow for “French family celebrations,” but Christmas would “not be as usual” this year, in particular:
It is not reasonable to hope for big parties gatherings of several dozen people, especially on New Year’s Eve.
He also confirmed that it was too early to say whether long-distance travel would be allowed over Christmas. However, in a poll for French newspaper Le Parisien, 71 percent of people said they would accept lockdown continuing over Christmas if necessary.
High schools (lycées) were given permission to move up to half of their classes online. Pupils must spend at least half of their time in the classroom, however, and a full timetable of face-to-face teaching “is preferred”. The exact details of how much teaching goes online is up to each individual establishment, so will vary from place to place. Younger children in collège, élémentaire or maternelle will continue to attend school full time.
Let’s now look at some key dates:-
Mid-December: Throughout both lockdowns, the government has been reviewing the measures on a fortnightly basis, so it’s likely that we will get some sort of review and possible relaxation of the rules in the middle of December.
The government will also have to make a decision about the rules over Christmas by this date, in particular whether to allow trains to run a fuller service over the holiday period – at present SNCF is running only 30% of its normal long-distance services.
25th December: The government says it’s likely that at least some lockdown rules will still be in place by Christmas, meaning a muted celebration this year.
16th February, 2021: The current State of Health Emergency runs out. The official state of emergency does not in itself have any effect on regulations, but the designation allows the government to impose sweeping restrictions on daily life – such as lockdown – and also reduces the need for parliamentary debate. If the French parliament agrees, the emergency designation can be extended from this date.
March 2021: Despite promising news of a vaccine from a joint enterprise between US giant Pfizer and German company BioNTech, the jab is not expected to hit the streets of France immediately. Asked about the vaccine, French health minister Olivier Véran sounded a note of caution, saying:
We have not yet had access to all the data. We are preparing to start a vaccination campaign as soon as possible, provided that we have a guarantee that the vaccine is effective and safe.
The head of the EU’s health agency said that if all the trials are completed satisfactorily, the vaccine could start to be rolled out in the first quarter of 2021, echoing World Health Organisation sources who were also quoted saying that March was a likely start date.
Any roll-out of the vaccine would begin with the groups particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 – the elderly (not us) and the those with chronic health conditions.
So it’s not all bad news. Longtime readers of my blog will know I am not at all keen on “family” Christmases and, let’s be honest, I’m not the only one. I am hoping that I’ll be back on my bike, on the open roads within the next two weeks.