COVID RULE CHANGES

What's legal and what's not as France begins relaxing Covid restrictions

The Canal Saint Martin in central Paris, always popular when the sun comes out, has seen various restrictions banning large gatherings and the consumption of alcohol during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
The Canal Saint Martin in central Paris, always popular when the sun comes out, has seen various restrictions banning large gatherings and the consumption of alcohol during the Covid-19 lockdowns. AP - Christophe Ena

Monday 3 May is the first key date in the gradual easing of French Covid-19 safety measures. Secondary schools have reopened their doors to limited numbers of students, and unrestricted inter-regional travel is once again allowed. What else has changed?

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As promised last week by President Emmanuel Macron, travel anywhere in France is once again permitted, without the need for an official certificate for journeys of more than 10 km from home.

The other major change affects thousands of French secondary school students.

For those in their final three years before the baccalaureate examination, classes are once again open, with half the group in physical attendance while the others follow on computers from home. The half groups will alternate on a weekly basis.

For students in the more junior classes, the general rule is for a return to full time teaching, with full classes in attendance.

However, for the 15 French departments where the rate of infection remains dangerously high, those in the third and fourth years of the secondary cycle will follow the half-group alternate attendance system as for the seniors.

Saliva tests are to be made available in all schools.

Some things won’t change               

The 7pm evening curfew remains in place, as does the fine of 135 euros for those found outdoors without good reason after that time. Home working is still the privileged professional option, with one day per week on-site permitted for employees who cannot complete their obligations from home.

Cinemas, theatres, museums, restaurants, cafés and all non-essential businesses are to stay shuttered, as are large shopping centres.

The next crucial date is 19 May, when the curfew start time will be pushed back to 9 pm. The opening of museums, stadiums and cultural venues will also be permitted in all regions of France from that date, provided the rate of infection is lower than 400 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants.

Businesses currently considered as non-essential will also be allowed to re-open, subject to the same conditions.

National rail company gets in the swing

The French national rail operator, SNCF, has announced the availability of five million tickets at less than 39 euros between now and the end of August.

The initiative is intended as a parallel to the government’s gradual relaxation of restrictions, and is, according to the boss of SNCF Voyageurs, Christophe Fanichet, in response to “the huge need to get away” felt by most French people after more than 12 months of disruption caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

Fanichet has also promised that high-speed services, currently reduced to just 4 trains in every ten, will be increased to 8 in ten by the end of this week.

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