CÔTE D'AZUR & PROVENCE
We are experiencing the most unprecedented time in modern history. Just over three months since the Covid-19 virus broke out in Wuhan, China, most of Europe has enacted restricted contact and social distancing and even complete quarantine lockdown, with Italy first, France second and now Spain.
Initially downplayed as ‘just a flu,’ the virus has proved itself to be incredibly contagious, and mercifully aggressive on elderly and people with vulnerable immune systems.
Only one week after Italy took drastic measures of forced confinement, France has followed suit in an attempt to “flatten the curve” of infection.
Regulations started slowly, with recommending ‘social distancing’ of at least one metre and limiting social gatherings and events of over 1000 people which was quickly reduced to 100 people. But the number of infected continued to climb, each day with several new cases in each region.
Last Saturday, 14 March the Ministry of Health announced an immediate closure of all restaurants and bars, cinemas and school closures across the country. On Monday, President Macron addressed the nation about the importance of battling the virus as swiftly and effectively as possible. “Nous somas en guerre,” he stated as his opening line and continued to repeat the phrase ‘we are at war’ several times during his speech. For a link to his speech dubbed in English, click here. https://www.france24.com/en/20200316-live-france-s-macron-addresses-nation-amid-worsening-coronavirus-outbreak
A declaration of war is often followed by extreme measures, and this was no exception. France was to enact strict confinement and limits to travel for the next two weeks. Effective 17 March at 12 pm, any person not required to work on-site would be confined to their homes and all non-necessary movement would be prohibited.
So what are the rules?
The French Public Services website has a list of approved travel and a downloadable PDF of the attestation de déplacement dérogatoire (the form required each time you leave your home).
The website states:
As of 17 March 2020 at 12:00 pm, for a minimum of 15 days, travel is authorised on condition that a certificate (to be printed and filled out) is provided for only the following reasons:
- Travel between home and work when working from home is not possible
- Necessary food shopping trips at local markets
- Health-related travel (with accompanying documentation)
- Displacement for compelling family reasons, assistance to vulnerable persons or child care
- Short trips, close to home, for individual sports (walking, running) and for the needs of pets. This is estimated to be within 1 - 2 Km of your residence, no further.
If you do not have a printer, you can write the certificate on plain paper (by copying all the elements of the certificate).
*Update as of 19 March: Cycling has been prohibited and all beaches along the coast are closed. Anyone found on the beach will be fined.
There are many groups saying that a digital version can be downloaded to your phone, but that will not be accepted by authorities if you are stopped. An official digital version is expected in the coming days.
Police are out enforcing the confinement. If you do leave your home for reasons other than the above, you could be fined, starting from €38 and increasing to 135€ or more. After the first day of controls showed a blatant disregard for the regulations, authorities have increased the fines up to €375.
It is important to note that while you are allowed out for exercise and to walk your dog, you need to remain close to your residence and alone. A child can be with an adult. The police will stop you if you are walking closely with other people. All parks and all beaches have also been closed due to the number of people out.
THIS IS A SERIOUS QUARANTINE. Many groups on social media are arguing over distance and walking with family, but everyone needs to realise that this is an important time of crisis, the measures are temporary and our lives cannot continue as usual during the isolation period. The sooner we accept this, the sooner the quarantine can end.
Currently, primary services are allowed to continue working such as pharmacies, grocers and delivery, so even if your local shop was sold out the past few days, they will get new stock in the coming days. Panic buying ensued both Monday and Tuesday, however, please note that there is not a shortage of food and you can go food shopping when needed.
Restaurants are closed to the public, but many remain open for takeaway and delivery options. Check with your local eatery to see if they still offer this.
Is this all really necessary?
It is important to understand why these measures are in force.
Many people on social media have been making fun of the rules for being exaggerated or dramatic, saying coronavirus is ‘just the flu’ which is only partly true. This virus is sneaky. Most people infected with Covid-19 do not suffer serious symptoms and many are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms, but they still are carriers of the virus and highly contagious. It is, in fact, these people who are the most dangerous, walking around and possibly infecting several people each time they go out.
The seasonal flu has a mortality rate of about 0,1% but the new Coronavirus is showing rates as low as 0,5% and up to nearly 5% mortality. The worst and most deadly aspect of the virus is the burden placed on hospitals who just don’t have the capacity to treat the number of patients infected at such a high rate. Severe complications require oxygen and respiratory machines, and there are only so many of those available. This is the reason for the confinement and why it is so important to respect the guidelines.
An overloaded hospital means that doctors will have to start prioritising patients, choosing whom to save. No one wants or should have to make that decision. Remember, while you may not be at risk, your loved ones could be. It could be your mother or father or partner that is lacking treatment from a crowded hospital. We’re staying home to protect our loved ones, ourselves and our neighbours. The more seriously these measures are taken, the slower the spread of the virus and the more lives will be saved.
An excellent video (in French) describing the data and importance of isolation was made by France TV and can be seen here: https://www.france.tv/1346979-coronavirus-confinements-solidaires.html
The best precautions
First and foremost, isolation. There are some reports coming out of Italy only today (18 March) suggesting the confinement is reducing the number of new patients. We will have a better idea of the effects in the coming days, but so far it seems promising.
When you do leave for the designated reasons, continue to be vigilant about hygiene as the virus is showing to live for up to several days on hard surfaces such as metal and plastic. Wash your hands after touching anything public and avoid touching your face, mouth or eyes. When washing with soap and water is not available, make sure to use an alcohol-based sanitiser. Don’t forget to disinfect items you often touch without thinking, such as your mobile phone, door handles and keys.
If you believe you may be infected, call your doctor before you call emergency services. Doctors are doing ‘televisites’ now and can give you guidance without a physical visit. More information from the Lenval Foundation can be found here: https://lenval.org/covid19-teleconsultatios/?utm_source=sharefb&fbclid=IwAR1sq0-WPgBqtLo0PlT6o4PL_a2lmbJti-kAyS9iQcsWi5-HVbh5vK0B7OU)
If you do have a medical emergency, call 15 for immediate response.
-Most cities, including Nice and Cannes, have abolished parking fees during the confinement, so there is no worry about parking tickets.
-If you are awaiting visa or carte de séjour (non-UK) renewals or decisions, France has granted a three-month extension to all expirations dates to account for office closures.
-Cotisations tax payments due 20 March for auto-entrepreneurs and small business owners have been extended.
-Nice Airport is still open, although they have consolidated all flights to Terminal 2. If you still have a flight, continue to Terminal 2 even if your flight was scheduled to depart T1. Travel is extremely restricted, but there are still flights for French residents and nationals returning home. All non-essential travel is not advised.