French Senate votes ‘conditions’ on deconfinement bill

The French Senate has voted to extend the state of health emergency in France as deconfinement begins, with some conditions, including requiring “essential guarantees” over how the process is managed.

6 May 2020
The Senate tentatively voted through the deconfinement bill, with some conditions attached
By Connexion journalist

The Senate voted in favour of the law by 240 to 25, with 80 abstaining.

The bill had requested that the state of emergency be extended to July 24, but the Senate approved it until July 10 only. It may yet be extended again if necessary.

Senator Philippe Bas said: “We are ready and determined to make deconfinement a success, but we will not accept it without guarantees.”

The draft law will now be examined by the Assemblée Nationale this week, with a view to adopting the law by the end of the week, to ensure it is in place by May 11 - the start of deconfinement.

The bill’s seven articles seek to “strengthen the legal framework” of the current state of health emergency, and to ensure that the “issues of deconfinement” are included within it, said health minister Olivier Véran.

It sets out new measures, including a quarantine on new arrivals into the country in some cases where necessary, and an “information system” in place to trace ill people and any of their contacts.

Yet, the Senate sought to impose strict limits on this tracing system, saying that the rules of medical secrecy should still be in place, and that people should have a right to oppose the tracing if they choose.

Mr Véran has appeared opposed to some of these conditions, saying: “If we do not have ‘tracing’ [in place], we do not have deconfinement.”

Read more: Covid contact tracing brigades in France: What we know

The Senate also said that the criminal liability system should be adjusted to take into account measures that employers, local ministers and civil servants will be required to take when confinement is lifted.

The chamber also debated the reopening of access to beaches and forests, with some saying that it was important to give “hope” to the French public after confinement, and others warning that this could risk spreading Covid-19 further.

Currently, forests will be open everywhere from May 11 - as long as social distancing measures remain in place - but beaches and lakes will remain closed. Public parks and gardens will be open only in “green” departments.

Read more: Deconfinement in France: What is allowed from May 11

Read more: France Covid-19 map: More departments in green

The Senate also unanimously adopted an amendment to the bill that would ensure that victims of domestic violence will not be forced to quarantine or self-isolate with their violent partner.

 

Future smartphone app

The new bill will not be allowed to be used as the legal basis for rolling out the new smartphone app, StopCovid, Senators also said.

This controversial app is set to be ready by June 2 - for the second phase of deconfinement - the junior digital minister has said. Yet, Mr Véran said that there was “no link” between the bill currently being debated, and the StopCovid project.

Read more: Covid contact tracing app: a risk to rights?

But many MPs - mainly from major opposition party Les Républicains - have said that they will vote against the StopCovid app anyway, if the amendments made to the “tracing system” by the Senate were not retained in the eventual law.

Communist MPs went further, saying that the contributions made to the bill by the Senate were “largely insufficient” and that registration to any tracing system or app should be made on a purely voluntary basis.

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