France is expected to end the official “state of health emergency” introduced for the coronavirus crisis on 10 July. This “exceptional” crisis measure gave the government temporary constitutional powers to introduce restrictions during the pandemic. Now the government is planning legislation allowing it to lift the state of emergency while keeping certain measures to avoid a second wave of Covid-19.
The number of patients in intensive care units in hospitals with the virus has dropped to below 1,000, from a spike of more than 7,000 in April, and the number of deaths each day is falling. A total of 29,296 people have died in France as a result of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to official figures.
“Given the positive developments in the health situation, at this stage, the government wishes to end the state of health emergency, which should remain an exceptional mechanism. However, this ending must be rigorously and progressively organised in order to continue to protect the French against a virus that is still circulating in France and could justify the continuation and, if necessary, even strengthening of measures currently in place in the weeks and months to come,” a statement from Prime Minister Édouard Philippe’s office said.
The new legislation would allow the government to control public movements as well as access to public transport, to order the closure of public establishments and to reinforce rules about wearing masks in public places. These measures would last until November, but could be changed according to circumstances. The law would not give the French authorities the power to reimpose a lockdown; if the virus suddenly returns, the government will have to seek a decree authorising new restrictions over the whole or part of France, Matignon, the French equivalent of Number 10, said.
France’s external borders are currently closed to all but essential workers and those with a “compelling” reason to enter the country. The country ended its strict two-month lockdown on 11 May. Most of France has been progressively allowed to return almost to normal, but restrictions still cover the Paris region.
The bill is expected to be presented to MPs in the lower house, the Assemblée Nationale today for debate on 17 June.