French state of health emergency: What changes as it ends?

Midnight tonight (from Friday July 10 to Saturday July 11) marks the end of France’s state of health emergency imposed due to the Covid-19 crisis, with some changes taking place as a result. We explain.

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Stadiums and racetracks can reopen

Stadiums were already permitted to open, but only for sports practices with preventative health measures in place. From July 11, stadiums will now be permitted to open to the public, with a maximum of 5,000 people allowed to enter at one time.

This limit is expected to stay in place until September. However, this may change subject to evaluations “to decide if relaxation of the rules is possible from the second half of August”.

Racing tracks may also reopen, and river cruises are now also permitted to operate within France.

In contrast, nightclubs and international cruises are still banned until September.

The interior ministry said: “In coordination with our European partners, it may be decided to resume sea cruises between European ports for ships whose capacity does not exceed a limit set by ministerial decree.”

The winter 'truce' for accommodation is over

Laws preventing landlords from evicting tenants over the winter have been extended twice due to the crisis, but this “truce” is set to end tonight.

Yet, landlords will still not be allowed to evict people if there is no chance that they will be rehoused, former-housing minister Julien Denormandie told news source La Croix in an interview.

Landlords and owners will, however, be able to seek compensation from the state when eviction procedures have not been carried out.

During confinement, more than 20,000 extra emergency housing places were opened gradually - especially in hotels - in a bid to house people who would otherwise have been homeless and/or “living outdoors”.

Added to this were 14,000 extra places maintained as part of the country’s “winter plan”. These places will continue to be “maintained as long as alternative solutions have not been found”, said Mr Denormandie.

No-one should be evicted and forced to live on the streets, he said.

End to immediate sick pay

In March, the government scrapped the waiting time on sick leave, meaning that workers were paid for sick leave immediately. Now, this exemption will end, and workers will have to - as they did before - wait three days before they begin to benefit from sick pay.

Tax exemption for overtime is once again capped at €5,000

In France, overtime hours are usually exempt from taxes and social security payments up to a limit of €5,000. Most workers would not have reached this limit by March - when confinement began - but the government nevertheless lifted the cap on exempted overtime to €7,500 during the state of health emergency.

This has now dropped back to the usual €5,000 limit.

Some restrictions no longer legal - but further changes not ruled out

Despite the end to the state of health emergency, the government still retains the right to limit or change the laws on issues such as movement of people and vehicles, whether shops can open, and whether people have the right to gather in large numbers.

This is set to last until October 31, with the government authorised to make changes by decree.

However, the end of the state of health emergency means that the government cannot impose a second total confinement on the entire country, as it did in March.

Similarly, it cannot impose blanket limits such as banning people from travelling within 100 km of their home - which was the case in the early stages of deconfinement.

Read more: France 100km limit: Fines issued ahead of long weekend

However, France could choose to re-impose confinement conditions locally, if it appears necessary in future.

So far, France has not done this - in contrast to Spain, Portugal and the UK, which have seen fit to do so in response to renewed local outbreaks (such as happened in Leicester).

Read more: State of health emergency in France to end July 10

Read more: Minister: 200 new Covid clusters in France 'under control'

The end of the state of health emergency marks the latest step in France’s “deconfinement” process, which began on May 11.

While the SARS-Cov-2 virus (which causes Covid-19) has been described as “under control” in France now and some have sought to dismiss the threat of a “second wave” of the virus, health experts have not ruled out that the epidemic could return as deconfinement continues and autumn approaches.

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