Note: The information in this article about the date for the lifting of the curfew was correct at time of publication but was superseded by announcements by President Emmanuel Macron on April 29 in the regional press. Please see our article on the president's announcements here.
The national curfew is to end in France from June 2, with the government set to present a roadmap out of the health crisis from that date to October 31 in the coming days. We explain.
Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed yesterday (April 28) - after a defence council meeting - that Parliament would present “a transitory plan for exiting the crisis from June to October 31”.
He said: “This plan will allow us to include measures that evolve with the changing situation, and also to have the necessary tools in case the virus spikes again.”
He added that while the virus presence remains high in France, it is seeing “a real tendency towards a decrease”.
He said: “In terms of a weekly average, the number of daily cases has gone from 38,000 at the peak of the third wave, to 26,200 over the past seven days.”
Mr Castex added that the government was on track to reach its objective of 15 million first vaccinations by the end of this week, and said that by yesterday, 60% of people aged 60 and over had had at least one injection.
While the country is under a state of health emergency, the government can introduce measures such as curfews, travel restrictions and lockdowns, both at a local and national level.
The proposal is for the state of health emergency to be lifted on June 1.
The draft text for this must be submitted to France’s Assemblée nationale, which should happen around May 10, 20 Minutes has reported.
What will happen from June 2?
If the government’s plan is adopted by parliament then France’s state of health emergency will end on June 1 with the national curfew ending the following day.
Outdoor gatherings will still be limited to six people, and the government will still have the power to close public places if necessary.
After June 2, a new curfew could be imposed at a local level in theory, but only for a month at a time. Parliament would need to vote on the plan if the measure was intended to last longer than a month.
Currently, the government still has the power to “change or get rid of” the curfew, the prime minister’s office said, and this week President Macron said that the date of change could be delayed, depending on the health situation.
It comes after the government confirmed that President Emmanuel Macron will tomorrow (April 30) lay out “a gradual and phased exit strategy” from the health crisis.
Why June 2?
The state of health emergency is planned to end on June 1.
This means that after this date legally, only 10% of France will be able to be under curfew at any one time if deemed necessary, the prime minister’s office confirmed to BFMTV yesterday.
Beyond this date, the government would have needed to extend the current state of health emergency in order to continue to impose measures such as a nationwide curfew.
The last time the state of health emergency was extended, it passed by only a slim majority in Parliament: 278 v 193.
Since then, a group of MPs have written to Mr Castex to denounce the continued state, FranceInfo reported, so support for another extension is likely to be low.
The curfew will remain in place until June 2 however - rather than lifting before then - because the prime minister has repeatedly said that it is one of the most effective anti-Covid measures. The government has been reluctant to lift the rules before that date.
What about the 10% rule?
Under the new rules, the government will still retain the right to place up to 10% of the population under curfew again, by decree, in any areas where Covid-19 continues to pose a threat.
It will also be permitted to close shops under the same rule.
These measures would only be allowed for one month maximum, otherwise a new Parliament vote would be necessary.
Presidential roadmap out of Covid
President Macron will announce the country’s plans to transition out of lockdown tomorrow, in an interview that will be published in local newspapers across France.
The decision to reserve the interview for local newspapers - rather than to make the announcements on TV or via a single broadsheet - has been described by the Elysée as a deliberate choice by the president to show his "desire and determination to continue dialogue with local and national players".
Newspaper Le Monde suggested that the move was a way to make the president appear less authoritarian, perhaps in an effort to soften his profile in the run-up to the 2022 presidential elections.
It comes after the president hosted a videoconference with around a dozen mayors from small-town communities across the country.
Topics discussed included the health restrictions still in place, the rollout of the vaccination campaign, and plans to help kickstart local economies, shops, and small businesses.
Jean-Patrick Courtois, mayor of Mâcon (Les Républicains, LR), said: “He was listening to us, and I even saw him taking notes!”
Julie Arias, mayor (LR) of Lançon-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, said: “There are so many people between us and him that he is not told the real reality that we live in. So I invited him to spend a day with me to see what our lives are really like. He wrote it down.”
The president had already held a similar meeting on April 15, and again in mid-March, to “gather feedback from the field and local mayors’ suggestions on health crisis management”.