What you can (and cannot) do in 16 lockdown areas of France

A new confinement will begin March 20 for 21 million people, but there are some significant changes in the rules compared with previous confinements. We explain

19 March 2021
By Joanna York

A new confinement will come into place in almost a third of the country – affecting 21 million people in France – from March 20.

The 16 departments going into confinement are: Aisne, Alpes-Maritimes, Essonne, Eure, Hauts-de-Seine, Nord, Oise, Paris, Pas-de-Calais, Seine-et-Marne, Seine-Maritime, Seine-Saint-Denis, Somme, Val-de-Marne, Val-d'Oise, and Yvelines.

The new confinement restrictions will be in place for at least four weeks, until April 17, the prime minister said last night.

But there will be some significant changes between what is allowed during this confinement and the ones that have gone before.

Curfew pushed back by one hour

Night-time curfew measures will be maintained during the confinement in the 16 departments and nationally.

But the start of the curfew has been pushed back by one hour, meaning it will now run from 19:00-6:00 from Saturday, March 20. This is the same for all of France. 

Read more: France’s curfew to start hour later at 19:00 from Saturday

Travel exemption forms return

As in previous lockdowns and during the curfew, you will need to carry a travel exemption form with you when you leave the house, ticking the correct box with your reason for going outside. 

Updated forms will be available in digital and printable format on the government’s Covid website.

Digital forms will also be available via the TousAntiCovid app.

You can travel 10km from your home for an unlimited time

Previous restrictions that specified you could only leave the house for one hour within a 1km radius (or 5km for weekend lockdowns) of your home are gone. 

Prime Minister Jean Castex said it would be possible during this confinement to “go for a walk, to get air, or do sports during the day… with no time limit”.

But people must say within a 10km limit of where they live, and the new rules do not allow for socialising.

Mr Castex said increased freedoms did not mean that people were allowed to visit friends’ houses, have barbecues with friends outside, or “gather in public spaces like parks and gardens, or outside bars that serve take-away food and drinks”.

He said the change to the rules had been made in the spirit of “putting the brakes [on the epidemic] without shutting people away”.

You cannot travel to another region without an essential reason

People living in areas under lockdown cannot travel to other regions in France, unless they have an essential reason relating to work or family.

If you do have an essential reason, you will need to carry a travel permission form and supporting documents with you during your journey.

The prime minister did not say what people should do if they are away from the region they normally live in when the confinement begins, but during other confinements a few days’ tolerance was given for people to return home.

Shops will be open for essential items only 

All shops that do not sell “essential items” will close to customers during the lockdown. This includes clothes shops, florists, jewellery shops, and more.

As in previous lockdowns, aisles selling non-essential items in supermarkets will be closed off. 

But, the list of what is considered essential has been expanded since the last confinement. 

The prime minister said: “The definition of essential items now covers books and music, which will allow bookshops and music shops to stay open.”

Mr Castex did not give a complete list of which shops will be allowed to stay open, but during previous confinements this has included food shops, news and stationery shops, and DIY and hardware stores.

Hairdressers will also be allowed to stay open this time, government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told news source RTL on March 19, as long as they have “specific health protocol in place”.

Schools will stay open

In confined departments, schools for children aged 3-15-years-old, including maternelles, écoles élémentaires and collèges, will stay open and function as normal.

Lycées, for students aged 16-18, will use a half-and-half schedule with 50% of students in school at one time, and 50% learning from home. 

Many lycées in France are already using this system.

PE lessons will continue “as normal”, the prime minister said, including for sports practised inside in sports halls.

He said extra-curricular sports activities practised outside would also continue for school pupils.

Universities will stay open

No new rule changes have been announced for university students. Current rules are that students can attend lectures on campus for one day each week.

Religious spaces will stay open

Religious spaces will be able to stay open with limits on how many people can attend services at one time. 

During weekend confinements in some departments in February and March, people were still allowed to go to religious ceremonies.

“Going to a place of worship” (Déplacement à destination ou en provenance d’un lieu de culte) was listed as a reason for leaving the home on travel exemption forms.

Cemeteries will also stay open.

Visits to elderly care homes allowed

Visits to elderly care homes will be allowed during confinement, with health protocols in place.

Contact the care home you wish to visit for more details.

Related stories

Explained: How to use home Covid tests on sale in France

Monitor Covid variants closely: France’s academy of medicine

3-stage plan to reopen restaurants in France but no date set

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
Brexit and Beyond for Britons in France*
Featured Help Guide
What the Brexit deal means for UK residents of France, second homeowners and visitors in 2021 and after
Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now