France to close schools for 3 weeks and extend partial lockdown across whole country

French President Emmanuel Macron announced during a live TV broadcast on Wednesday a three-week closure of the nation's schools in an attempt to halt soaring Covid case numbers, while the limited lockdown measures already in place in 19 départements will be extended to the whole country.

France to close schools for 3 weeks and extend partial lockdown across whole country
French president Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Benoit Tessier/AFP

Daily Covid-19 cases in France have doubled to around 40,000 and hospitals in infection hotspots like Paris are overflowing, putting the government under intense pressure.

Macron said: “We’re in a race against time. The new variant of the virus known as the UK variant is more contagious but also more dangerous,” adding that patients in hospitals were getting younger.

“Intensive care units now have to take care of healthy people who are 60 or 50 years old, sometimes younger. Remember this figure – 44 percent of intensive care patients are younger than 65 years old.

“We therefore need to set new measures for the weeks to come. If we do nothing . . . we would place our country in a vulnerable situation.”

However the president decided against a full, strict lockdown for the county instead deciding to extend the partial lockdown measures and close schools for three weeks, including two weeks of rescheduled holiday.

The “lockdown light” measures include the closure of non-essential shops and a ban on travel between regions. The 7pm-6am curfew also remains in place.

  • There is no time limit on trips outside, as long as you are within 10km of your home
  • Attestations (permission forms) are not required for any trip within 10km of home between 6am and 7pm
  • Non-essential shops are shut, but the definition of essential has been expanded to include bookshops, music shops and hairdressers, in addition to the businesses which remained open during the November lockdown 
  • Travel to a different region is not allowed, except for essential or work-related trips. However the president added that: “Those who want to change regions for the lockdown period can do so over the Easter weekend”.
  • French people living abroad who want to return to France will also be able to do so at any time and “we will do everything to facilitate the daily lives of cross-border workers” said Macron
  • The rules on travel into France from other countries stay the same – full details HERE 

The rules will be the largely the same as those already in place for the 19 départements on ‘lockdown light’ – you can read the full rules HERE.

Meeting friends and family in private homes (within the 10km limit) was not explicitly forbidden, but Macron asked people to keep socialising to a minimum in order to limit the spread. Police will be stepping up checks on gatherings of more than six and of people drinking alcohol in public places.

These measures will come into force on the evening of Saturday, April 3rd and stay in force for four weeks, initially.

In addition, the nation’s schools will be temporarily closed with a changed Easter holiday period and extra weeks of distance learning.

The school measures are as follows:

Monday, April 5th – School premises to close with a week of distance learning for infant, primary, secondary and high schools. 

Monday, April 12th – The start of the two-week Easter holiday for all schools, across all areas (a change in holiday dates for most schools)

Monday, April 26th – Return of in-person infant and primary (maternelles and primaires) classes – secondary and high schools to continue with distance learning

Monday, May 3rd – secondary and high schools return to in-person classes

Parents who are unable to work while their children are out of school will qualify for temporary work furlough or financial aid.

READ ALSO What parents are entitled to if schools close

In addition to extra restrictions, France’s intensive care bed capacity will be increased from 5,000 to 10,000 over the next few days, with medical students, volunteers and army medics brought in to help out the increasingly over-stretched hospitals.

Macron also laid out a revised vaccination schedule, reiterating that “by the end of the summer” every adult in France who wants a vaccine will be offered one.

The new dates for vaccinations are:

From April 16th all adults aged 60 and over can be vaccinated, not just people with underlying illness

From May 15th all adults aged 50 plus

From mid June everyone else will be eligible.

READ ALSO How to book an appointment for a Covid vaccine

The president also announced that from mid May, outdoor restaurant and café terraces and certain businesses could begin to gradually reopen.

“Thanks to the vaccine, the way out of the crisis is emerging,” he said, adding that from mid-May some cultural venues and café terraces would reopen “under strict rules”.

A calendar would be drawn up for a full reopening of sports, leisure, hospitality and cultural facilities, he added.

Macron also defended again his decision not to lock down in January, saying: “Many of our neighbours decided to lock down, like our German neighbours who have been locked down for four months. Our Italian friends are on their fourth lockdown,” he said.

“With our collective choices we gained precious weeks of liberty, weeks of learning for our children, we allowed hundreds of thousands of workers to keep their head above water, without losing control of the epidemic,” he argued. 

Member comments

  1. Can anyone help to interprete these new rules! We are in the U.K. as my father died, but reside in France( waiting for our permits) Can we travel home during this new lockdown?

      1. No it doesn’t help. We want to enter France from the U.K. which is allowed and drive home to the Languedoc. We have proof that we are resident, but obviously have to cross regions. I think it counts as motif imperatif to return home. But how do I check.

        1. I should have said I’m sorry about your father’s death; such an awkward time to have to deal with things like that. Bon courage.

          As for distance travel, I’m not an expert but neither is the standard French citizen, so I’ve been reading this for months because of my own needs: during the day the ordinary daytime Attestation would cover you, Point 8, Motif familiale etc. After curfew I can’t see that the night time attestation would allow it for the return journey, as you’re not en route to the emergency, and unfortunately the transit/longue distance doesn’t apply to ferries, so if you normally break your journey anyway or are forced to on this occasion because of the curfew then you’d need to get to your hotel by 7.00 (so said The Local on this very point recently). Well that’s what I’d do.

          Easter weekend the travel restrictions are apparently lifted anyway but that won’t affect you when you’ve already got your reason … but the curfew will still apply I assume so I’ll wish you a safe journey & a good night’s sleep. (If there’s another announcement that the curfew is suspended to allow thousands to escape Paris for the outer reaches of remote countryside without stopping overnight, well nothing would surprise me.) I expect The Local is writing it up at this very moment. Email them if necessary, but I expect they’ll be inundated.

  2. So complicated! I am an American based in France with my German husband and young child. We have lost our childcare and have no family in France (or the rest of Europe) who can help us. Now that my family in the US is vaccinated we would like to travel there so my parents can help take care of our baby, as we both work full-time. I understand that you are allowed to leave France to return to your home country, which would apply to myself and my child, but would this apply to my partner as well? We know that he would be allowed entry into the US, but we are concerned that he will not be allowed to leave France.

    Within France childcare counts as a ‘motif impérieux’ to travel between départements, but it does not appear to be the case for international travel. This is immensely frustrating for people like us with young children and no families in France. We are at a loss for what to do — stay here completely overwhelmed, with no support, or risk having my husband barred from leaving at the airport. Do you know if spouses would also be allowed to return to the country of origin of their non-European partners?

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Will France bring back mandatory mask-wearing?

France's public health watchdog is reportedly "studying" the possibility of bringing back compulsory face coverings on public transport - we look at what happens next and what Covid rules remain in place this autumn.

Will France bring back mandatory mask-wearing?

Amid its eighth wave of Covid-19, the return of mandatory masking in certain places is “under study” by French health watchdog, Covars. 

Face-coverings have remained compulsory in a few specific places – such as hospitals – but since May have only been “strongly recommended” on public transport.

Now experts disagree on whether a return would be possible. The question is legally complicated, as France is no longer in a state of emergency, and the law that allowed the government to make masking mandatory (le loi relative à la gestion de la sortie de crise sanitaire) expired on August 1st. 

Since May, masks have been ‘recommended‘ rather than ‘required’ on public transport and only remained compulsory in hospitals and other health centres.

In the airplanes, masking “remains nevertheless recommended”, as indicated on the Paris airport website.

Trains have similar messaging – as SNCF also says wearing masks are “strongly recommended in our stations and in our trains.” The Paris public transport service RATP also “strongly recommends” that passengers wear masks, although in reality few do.

Only hospital directors, doctors and pharmacies have retained the right to require masks to be worn.

According to RFI, obligatory masking “could be made compulsory again in the form of ministerial or prefectural decrees, depending on the evolution or degradation of the health situation; if a new problematic variant of the virus is identified.”

However, legal experts disagree on the methods France could use make masks obligatory again, as well as how likely such a measure would be.

Legal expert Guillaume de Durat told Le Parisien that he does not see any legislative avenue to reinforce compulsory masking, outside of care settings.

De Durat speculated that if Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wanted to require face coverings on public transport, she might be able to do so by passing an order using “general police power with the risk that the Council of State may oppose it.” 

“There are many opponents to wearing the mask, so there would inevitably be appeals,” he said.

Another legal expert, Serge Slama said that up until now, compulsory face coverings have been required because a legal text authorised doing so (the law placing France in a public health emergency).

However, the legal framework that replaced the loi relative à la gestion de la sortie de crise sanitaire does not mention masking requirements. Additionally, passing a new law could be complicated with the current parliamentary layout, as President Macron’s coalition does not have an absolute majority. 

Lawyer Caroline Lantero told Le Parisien that “it would be necessary to really face a real public health threat for [compulsory masking] to be validated.” 

The Covid-19 situation in France

On Tuesday, the French health authority, Santé publique France, recorded 21 percent rise in positive coronavirus tests when compared to the previous week. 

Hopsitalisations are also on the rise – 49 percent higher on Tuesday, October 4th when compared to last week’s figures.

As a result, the Minister of Health, François Braun, said on Tuesday evening that the new public health watchdog, Covars (Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires), which replaced the Scientific Council, was studying the return of mandatory masking in certain places, such as public transport.

Brigitte Autran, the head of Covars, said that France should “take cues from Asian populations who have been wearing masks for a very long time” and that doing so “should become a kind of civic gesture.”

While she said there is “no obligation” currently, Covars of the mandatory mask in certain places was “under study” in the new scientific committee. 

What is the government recommending?

Several French government officials, including Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, have recommended continued mask-wearing.

Borne said over the summer that people should wear masks “in closed spaces, where there are many people, particularly in [public] transport.”

In addition to masking, the French government is tackling rising Covid-19 rates by beginning its fall vaccination campaign for vulnerable populations.

READ MORE: France launches autumn Covid booster campaign with new dual-strain vaccine

As of October 3rd, dual-strain Omicron adapted vaccines became available for use amongst certain groups. You can read more if you qualify HERE.

What about France’s neighbours?

Germany decided to make it compulsory to wear a FFP2 mask in long-distance trains on October 1st.

In addition, each German state has the possibility to impose it in other types of public transport, such as the subway and the bus.