France in lockdown: Do's and don'ts of walking the dog or helping the needy

French police patrol at the Tocadero square near the Eiffel tower in Paris as a lockdown imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) contagion started at midday in France, France, March 17, 2020.
French police patrol at the Tocadero square near the Eiffel tower in Paris as a lockdown imposed to slow the rate of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) contagion started at midday in France, France, March 17, 2020. REUTERS - CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

As France follows Italy and Spain in enforcing a lockdown in the face of the worsening coronavirus pandemic, the instructions from the government are simple: stay at home. Limited movement while respecting the containment rules is, however, possible. RFI breaks down the do's and don’ts. 


For the next 15 days, from Tuesday midday, all people circulating on France’s streets will have to justify, upon request, their “essential” reason for leaving their homes via this sworn statement, downloadable from the Interior Ministry website (those without a printer may hand write their statement on loose paper).

A force of 100,000 police officers will be deployed in the coming days to enforce the lockdown. Gathering with family or friends, picnicking in public spaces or engaging in group sports are strictly banned.

Those without a valid reason for being outside will be subject a fine of between 38 and 135 euros. Public transport will continue to circulate at a reduced frequency.

Tolerated reasons for venturing outside include:

  • Shopping for food and other "basic necessities”: Supermarkets, bakeries and pharmacies will remain open. Customers in “authorised local shops" will be required to respect a minimum distance between themselves and others.
  • Seeking medical treatment: People suffering severe symptoms are permitted to travel to see a health professional. Those with mild symptoms are asked to contact their doctor, but asked not to call the Samu paramedics, nor present at emergency rooms, which will already be saturated with cases of people suffering high fever and difficulty breathing.
  • Going to work: While “télétravail” or working from home is a golden rule, exceptions are allowed for those whose professional activities are essential and cannot be carried out remotely. Employees going to their place of work may be required to present, during checks, their professional card or a certificate from their employer justifying the trip. In companies where tele-working is impossible, the employer must put in place barrier measures, such as a minimum distance of one meter between employees.
  • Helping a love one: Visits or meals with family and friends, even in small numbers, are prohibited — but exceptions can be made for "compelling family reasons" or helping a dependent or needy relative. Separated parents are allowed to pick up and drop off their children, though trips should be brief and close to home.
  • Helping a neighbour: The French are being told to love thy neighbour, but at a safe distance, with President Emmanuel Macron encouraging the invention of a “new solidarity between generations”.
  • Getting some exercise: Physical activity is included on the list of necessary journeys, providing it’s done solo. While parks across France are closed, residents are permitted to go for a run by themselves or engage in exercises on pavements so long as it’s brief and is done at a safe distance from others. Groups sports are banned.
  • Taking the kids out: This is recognised as essential for the wellbeing of children, but it must be done near the home and families must not mingle with other families.
  • Walking the dog: Pet-owners are allowed to take their dogs for a walk in their immediate neighbourhood, provided they keep a safe distance from others.
  • Calling a tradesperson: Urgent interventions by plumbers and electricians are permitted in the event of a domestic water leak or electrical fault, but not for works of convenience such as renovations or home improvements. Tradespeople will be required to present a certificate to travel.
  • Returning home. French residents currently on vacation are allowed to return to their homes. Within the next two days people may also travel to a second residence in the countryside if they intend to stay there for the period of lockdown


  • Crossing borders: France’s borders have been closed to the rest of Europe and the Schengen zone, with the entry of all foreign nationals (or third-country nationals without residency permits) prohibited. “Essential” cross-border travel will, however, be allowed for citizens, including UK nationals, who have valid reasons. 

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning