How do I find out the Covid measures where I live in France?
President Emmanuel Macron has called for “more restrictions” to fight coronavirus, while Lille, Grenoble, Saint-Étienne and Lyon may all soon be placed in the maximum alert zone
Reader question: I have heard about the new maximum alert zones and new restrictions coming in, but how do I find out about restrictions in Manche where I live?
President Macron said yesterday (October 7) that the virus was “circulating too quickly” and that France should go towards having “more restrictions”.
Health minister Olivier Véran is due to present his weekly televised coronavirus update tonight. It is thought that cities Lille, Grenoble, Saint-Étienne and Lyon will join Paris and Marseille on the maximum alert level, meaning further restrictions such as bars closing and restaurants having to impose stricter sanitary measures.
As for the reader’s question, Manche is itself classed in the green zone, meaning that the virus is circulating at a moderate rate.
This information is provided by the local prefecture and can be found on its website or by phoning them.
So far, the government has not published any sort of interactive map that easily allows people to discover their department’s alert level.
How to find your department’s alert level
The easiest way is online.
You can go directly to your prefecture’s website by searching on the internet, for example, “Manche prefecture”. It will lead you to this page, and there in a box in the top left you will see this announcement:
“Suite aux annonces du ministre des Solidarités et de la Santé Olivier Véran ce mercredi 23 septembre, le département de la Manche reste actuellement en zone verte : circulation du virus à un niveau modéré.”
Look out for the key words: zone verte, zone alerte, zone alerte renforcée or zone alerte maximale.
These words will tell you what alert zone your department is in and will help you understand what restrictions to follow (see our guide below).
Another way to find your department’s alert zone is through this government website - https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/Le-ministere/Prefectures
This is a map of all departments in France and provides links to the prefecture’s social media channels and websites. Just type in, for example, Manche, and a box will pop up (see picture below). Click on the third icon and it will take you to the prefecture’s website.
Otherwise, if you follow your department’s prefecture on social media you should be able to find a constant stream of updates regarding the coronavirus situation.
If the internet is not for you, then the best option is to phone your prefecture and ask directly. Alternatively, you can phone France’s toll-free coronavirus helpline on 0 800 130 000.
A guide to France’s 5-tiered alert system
On September 23 the French government introduced a new five-tiered alert system that separates departments into different zones, depending on how badly they are affected by coronavirus.
The five zones are:
- Green zone (zone verte)
- Alert zone (zone alerte)
- Heightened alert zone (zone alerte renforcée)
- Maximum alert zone (zone Alerte maximale)
- State of health emergency (état d’urgence sanitaire territorial)
A department is accorded a colour depending on three factors:
- The incidence rate (the number of positive cases of the virus per 100,000 inhabitants).
- The incidence rate among elderly (people aged 65 and over).
- The percentage of beds occupied in intensive care units.
Decisions on levels of alert are made weekly by the health minister.
Departments with an incidence rate under 50 are placed in the green zone (zone verte). This means that circulation of the virus is well under control. All the usual rules such as social distancing, barrier gestures, hand washing, prohibition of gatherings of more than 5,000 people apply.
Departments with an incidence rate over 50 are placed in the alert zone (zone alerte). A decision to change a department’s level from green to alert is done by government decree. In these departments, prefects are given additional powers to introduce new laws to stem the spread of coronavirus. In these zones, a maximum of 30 people will be allowed at festive or family events.
A department will be placed in the heightened alert zone (zone alerte renforcée) when the incidence rate is over 150 and also over 50 among elderly people. Large-scale public gatherings such as concerts and sports events will be limited to 1,000 attendees, public gatherings will be limited to ten people, sports halls, gyms and party venues will be closed and bars - not restaurants - will have to close at 22:00 latest.
For departments in the maximum alert zone (zone alerte maximale), all three indicators will be taken into account. A department will be accorded this level if the incidence rate is above 250, the incidence rate among elderly people is over 100 and 30% or more of intensive care beds are occupied by people suffering from coronavirus. In these departments, all bars will be closed, restaurants will have to apply stricter sanitary measures, all establishments hosting the public will also be closed, unless they have set up a "strict health protocol". Theatres and cinemas, for example, are not concerned. The goal is for these measures to remain in place for only two weeks.
State of health emergency
The final level is the state of health emergency (état d’urgence sanitaire). No departments have been placed on this level of alert. It is not clear what indicators would lead to this being declared, but it could mean another nationwide lockdown.