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Covid France: Government updates on travel, reopening and schools

Senior ministers spoke last night (April 22) on upcoming changes to Covid rules in France. We summarise the key points. 

Jean Castex speaking. Covid France: Government updates on travel, reopening and schools

Prime Minister Jean Castex was one of many high-level ministers who spoke at the press conference last night Pic: @bernamaradio / BERNAMA Radio / Twitter

There will be no restrictions on travel within France from May 3, Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed during a press conference last night.

This was one of the key announcements from the conference, which was attended by multiple senior ministers, and confirms the statement made by government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Wednesday, April 21.

Other announcements were made about schools, vaccination, international travel, and what could open in France in mid-May. Here are the key points.

Travel limit exemption forms no longer needed 

The prime minister said that restrictions on movement within France would end. From May 3, travel between regions will be allowed, and travel exemption forms will no longer be needed for journeys during the day over 10km from your home.

Curfew will stay until mid-May

The 19:00-06:00 curfew will say in place until at least mid-May, Mr Castex said. Travel exemption forms are still needed for journeys outside the home during curfew hours.

More openings planned for mid-May

The prime minister said the door was open for “a new series of re-openings around mid-May, which could include non-essential shops, some cultural and sports activities and terraces”.

Re-openings depend on how the health situation evolves so have yet to be confirmed, but Mr Castex said the signs were positive. “We can see there has been a real lowering of the circulation of the virus in the past 10 days. The peak of the third wave seems to be behind us."

He adding that pressure in hospitals should decrease “within a few days”.

Read more: Where in France are restaurants expected to open first?

Vaccinations to open for people living with others at-risk due to illness

From Monday April 26, adults who live with someone with “severe immunodeficiencies” will be eligible for vaccination.

People aged over 55 will be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine. Younger people will be offered Pfizer or Moderna.

Health Minister Olivier Véran did not give a full list of conditions that would be eligible but he did say that vaccination may also soon open to people with obesity.

He said people with obesity under the age of 50 would “probably” be eligible for vaccines from mid-May, as the condition makes them vulnerable to contracting severe forms of Covid-19.

Read more: New app helps find Covid-19 vaccination appointments in France easily

Increased quarantine for visitors from at-risk countries

People travelling to mainland France from Brazil, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, India and French Guiana will be asked to follow stricter quarantine rules on arrival from Saturday, April 24.

The prime minister said the quarantine would last for 10 days, with “the quarantine location checked beforehand, and when the traveller arrives. Travellers must provide proof of where they will be staying.”

People in quarantine may only leave the location between 10:00-12:00. Outside of these hours they could be contacted at any time to make sure they are following the rules, with fines of €1,000-€1,500 for those who break them.

Currently, only French citizens and Europeans with a main residence in France are allowed to travel from the affected countries into France. Visitors must show a negative PCR test taken less than 36 hours before arrival.

Read more: Covid advisory body says France must prepare for spread of Brazil variant

Schools to reopen on schedule

Schools will reopen, as planned, from next week.   

Primary schools will reopen on Monday, April 26.

Collèges and lycées will resume distance learning on the same date, before returning to in-person classes on Monday, May 3. 

In lycées, students will return to a half-distance, half-in-person schedule.  

In collèges, students will go back to face-to-face learning full-time, except in departments still heavily affected by the virus. 

These are: Aisne, Bouches-du-Rhône, Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Loire, Nord, Oise, Paris, Rhône, Sarthe, Seine-et-Marne, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-d'Oise, Val-de-Marne and Yvelines 

In these departments, collège students in quatrième and troisième will move to a half-distance learning, half-in-person schedule.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said strict health protocol would be maintained in schools. Classes will close if any Covid cases are detected, and saliva testing will be increased. Primary schools will be sent 400,000 saliva tests next week, with the objective of 600,000 being done nationally by mid-May. 

Up to 64 million self-tests will be offered to staff from next week, and students aged over 15 from May 10. This means staff will be offered two self-tests per week, and students one per week.  

Barrier measures such as mask wearing, classes being seated together in the cafeteria, and ventilating rooms on the hour will continue. 

Brevet and baccalauréat exams are expected to go ahead as normal this school year. 

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