France may extend state of health emergency to October

The Assemblée Nationale chamber in France. The Assemblée Nationale is to debate whether to extend the state of health emergency further
The Assemblée Nationale is to debate whether to extend the state of health emergency further

France could extend its current state of health emergency to October this year, the government has said, after it was already extended once to July 10.

MPs will debate a possible further extension on June 17.

Maintaining a state of emergency means that prefects will continue to have the authority to make decisions designed to protect people’s health, including closing local beaches and banning large gatherings such as festivals and concerts.

A state of emergency also means that the government can introduce legislation “par ordonnance” if the health situation demands, which means it can push laws through quickly, without requiring them to go through the usual parliamentary channels or votes.

This could include measures such as requisitioning medical staff, equipment, or even vehicles, to help fight the virus.

One MP said: “Whether to allow the Tour de France to go ahead is a question for the state of emergency. As are such varied questions as managing borders, controlling the price of certain products, whether to reopen cinemas or commercial centres...all of which we will still need to be asking after July 11.”

Read more: Tour de France 2020 postponed due to Covid-19
Read more: Tour de France 2020: What impact Covid-19?
Read more: Travel: What do border reopenings mean for France?

Scientific advice

The Prime Minister’s office will base its position on advice from government scientific council le Conseil Scientifique, it said.

A staff member in the Prime Minister’s entourage told news service FranceInfo: "The question of an extension of the state of emergency will be decided in the light of health developments. We're not deciding anything today."

But another MP said that the extension appears “inevitable”, saying: “We must keep this toolbox of a state of emergency until after mid-July.”

The government has not yet set a deadline for ending the state of emergency. It has suggested that this could be extended until October, but the suspension of the Senate later in the autumn may mean it will be extended to November.

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