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How will France’s new lockdown be different from spring?

Exemption forms for leaving the house are back, but there are other significant changes

Yesterday evening President Macron announced that France will go into a second national lockdown beginning at midnight tonight (October 29) to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

The lockdown is currently set to last four weeks, finishing on December 1. However, this will be revaluated every 15 days, based on the health situation.

Prime Minister Jean Castex will give more details of the lockdown in a press conference scheduled for 18:30 this evening, in addition to his speech in the Assemblée Nationale this morning.

Here is what we know already.

What is changing? 

Schools will stay open

One of the most significant changes compared to spring is that schools in France will stay open during this lockdown.  

The President said: “Our children cannot be deprived of education in the long term… crèches, schools, collèges and lycées will stay open with reinforced health measures.”

In universities, online learning is recommended as much as possible.

Retirement homes can be visited

People will still be able to visit retirement homes and Ephad (residential care) homes during this lockdown.

The President said: “In order to avoid the human tragedies that we experienced in spring, when people alone, at the end of their lives, found themselves totally isolated, visits to Ephad and retirement homes will be authorised this time, as long as health rules are strictly respected.” 

Mask wearing obligatory

Mask wearing was not obligatory during the last confinement but has become so in the intervening months in France.  

For this new lockdown, the President asked people in France to continue wearing masks “systematically”. He added that mask wearing was necessary “when we find ourselves inside in the presence of another person, even someone we are close to, even a young child”.

The Prime Minister also confirmed this morning that mask wearing will now be obligatory in schools, even for primary students aged six and over. 

Work from home encouraged

Work from home will be encouraged “as much as possible” but President said it “must continue with more intensity” than during the last confinement. 

To this end, more sectors will be authorised to continue working through the lockdown including factories, public infrastructure projects, and public services including public facing counters.

Parks and gardens to stay open

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said this morning that parks and gardens would stay open. 

During the spring lockdown, many were closed, including in densely populated areas such as the centre of Paris.


What is staying the same? 

Permission - 'attestation' - forms

The President said: “Permission forms (attestations) will return.” This means, from tomorrow (October 30), anyone leaving the house will need to complete a paper or digital form explaining their reason for doing so.

As in spring, acceptable reasons for leaving the house are likely to include going to work, medical appointments, caring for others, shopping for essentials or exercising in areas close to home.

Limited travel

Travel will be limited between regions in France, although some lenience will be shown over the next few days for people returning home from holidays taken over the Toussaint (All Saints) weekend. 

No more gatherings

Private and public gatherings are banned, and places where people may gather are closed. These includes cinemas, theatres, museums, bars and restaurants.

The President specified that cemeteries would stay open for the next few days and possibly beyond. He said: “In this period, marked by All Saint’s Day, cemeteries will stay open and I want us to be able to continue to bury our dead with dignity.”

All but essential shops to close

Supermarkets and other shops considered “essential” will stay open during the lockdown. 

However, the Prime minister announced this morning that “on Sundays, food markets will stay open, unless the prefecture decides otherwise”.

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal confirmed that this applies to both covered and open markets.

Related stories

France to re-enter lockdown from Friday

France in ‘critical’ Covid-19 second wave amid record cases

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