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France: Government Imposes Confinement Measures to Stem Spread of Coronavirus

(Mar. 18, 2020) On Monday, March 16, 2020, President Emmanuel Macron addressed the French nation in a televised speech to announce new measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. The most drastic measure, which was put into effect by a decree of the same date, is mandatory home confinement. Beginning at noon on March 17, 2020, residents of France were not allowed to leave their homes except for the following specific reasons:

  • Commuting to work for those who cannot telework, and work-related travels that cannot be postponed
  • Trips to purchase groceries, necessary home supplies, and supplies necessary for professional activities
  • Trips for health reasons, such as to go to a medical appointment
  • Trips to help a vulnerable relative, or to help with child care
  • Short trips close to home to pursue an individual physical activity, or for the needs of a pet (such as walking a dog).

Individuals leaving their homes must carry a written declaration justifying the reason they are out and about. Local prefects are allowed to take stricter measures if necessary.

The Minister of the Interior announced on March 17, 2020, that up to 100,000 gendarmes and police officers would be mobilized to enforce the confinement order. He also stated that violators would be fined 38 euros (about US$42), and that the government would issue a decree “in the coming hours or days” to increase that fine to 135 euros (US$150). This decree was issued on March 18, 2020.

The French government had already ordered, on March 14, 2020, that that all restaurants, bars, conference centers, entertainment venues, shopping malls, museums, libraries, exhibit halls, and indoor sports facilities be closed. However, as President Macron mentioned in his address, too many people were ignoring the government’s advice to avoid crowds, including some bars and restaurants that remained open in defiance of the government’s order.

In addition to the home confinement measure, President Macron announced measures to support the country’s health professionals. The government will maintain child care options for the children of health professionals in public schools and daycare facilities. Additionally, the government will pay for healthcare professionals to take taxi rides and stay in hotels when needed so as to minimize commute times for them. Protective masks will be provided in priority to the healthcare professionals who are on the front lines of the fight against Covid-19, particularly general practitioners and nurses.

Furthermore, President Macron announced that the health services of the French armed forces would be mobilized to deal with the crisis. A field hospital will be established in the Grand Est region of France, which appears to be the most affected by the coronavirus at this time. Additionally, the French army, to minimize hospital overcrowding, will assist in moving sick patients from the worst-hit regions to hospitals in lesser-affected regions.