French passengers exempt from UK quarantine plans

by Steve Martindale

On Sunday 10th May, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an update on his government’s plans to “reopen” society later this week. During his speech he said he was “serving notice that it will soon be the time – with transmission significantly lower – to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air.”

The policy was initially short on detail, and more information should emerge over the coming days, but it has already been confirmed that passengers arriving from France will be exempt from any future quarantine period.

President Macron announced last week that passengers from the UK would not face a quarantine period when arriving in France and following Johnson’s speech, No 10 confirmed a reciprocal deal with the government in Paris meant restrictions would not also apply to passengers arriving in the UK from France.

Government confirms no quarantine for EU visitors

by Steve Martindale

Yesterday evening, the Elysée clarified that “Any person, whatever their nationality, arriving from other EU countries, the Schengen zone or the UK” would not be required to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival. On Saturday, the health minister, Olivier Véran, had stated that quarantine measures would apply “to people entering the national territory or arriving in an overseas territory” or Corsica. The statement will be a relief for many expats hoping to meet up with loved ones in the coming months, once the restrictions on travel are gradually lifted.

The government did confirm, however, that those arriving in France from a foreign country and testing positive for coronavirus can still be placed in quarantine for up to 30 days.

The news came as France, Italy and Spain all recorded their lowest death rates in several weeks. The latest figures showed 135 deaths in France, the lowest figure since late March and encouraging news as the nation prepares for the end of lockdown from 11th May.

New rules for post-lockdown France

by Steve Martindale

With the end of lockdown in sight for many, the government has unveiled what a post-confinement France will look like and what you will soon be able to do again.

Following confirmation in a televised address by Prime Minister Eduoard Philippe, the lockdown will finally end for many from Monday 11th May, although life will not be the same as before. While there will no longer be a need to carry a form when you leave the house, certain travel restrictions will remain in place and not all of the country will end confinement in the same way.

The new de-confinement rules unveiled represent phase one of a longer-term plan and will run from 11th May to 2nd June. Departments will be classified as either green or red when confinement finally ends, with stricter measures in place for those in red. For the time being, the majority of SW France has been given green status; the status for each department is being reviewed daily until 7th May, the date on which a definitive decision will be taken. In red departments “there will be the possibility of closing schools if necessary, or of closing a certain number of shops and outdoor places,” Health Minister Olivier Véran explained when revealing the first indicative maps on 30th April.

For full details of the major changes post-confinement in green departments see the lead article in May’s edition of The Bugle:

1er Mai, Fête du Muguet

by Steve Martindale

The 1st of May brings with it the French tradition of the giving and receiving of small bouquets of muguets, or lily of the valley. Although the flower has become associated with Labour Day, which is the official status of the May 1st public holiday in France and across much of the world, it has its roots in the Renaissance court of Charles IX, nearly 500 years ago.

Flowering as it does in the month of May and symbolising for many the regeneration of spring and the promise of a prosperous season ahead, it was given by Charles IX to those around him on the 1st May 1561 to bring them good luck.

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French Grand Prix cancelled

by Steve Martindale

The French Grand Prix has become the 10th race of the Formula 1 season to be cancelled due the ongoing health crisis. The cancellation of the race, which was due to take place on 28th June, had been seen as inevitable following the government’s announcement of a ban on all mass gatherings until mid-July.

The statement calling off the race said that organisers “take note of the impossibility to maintain the Formula 1 Grand Prix de France on 28 June”, and French Grand Prix managing director Eric Boullier said in a statement that eyes “were turning towards the summer of 2021”.

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€12 billion rescue package for Air France and Renault

by Steve Martindale

The French government has put together unprecedented financial rescue packages for two of the country’s largest employers. Announcing the loans, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said they would help carmaker Renault and flag-carrier Air France through the crisis caused by the coronavirus, but that they would come with strings attached, most notably regarding improvements in green credentials.

Air France has been given a €7 billion loan – €4 billion in bank loans guaranteed by the State and a further €3 billion loan direct from the State. “We need to save our national company and the 350,000 direct and indirect employees affected,” Le Maire said, while denying that the the loans were a first step to nationalisation. “We are behind Air France, behind the employees of Air France to guarantee our independence and save jobs.”

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Paris Mint strikes coronavirus fundraising coin

by Steve Martindale

To thank the country’s front-line workers, the Paris Mint has designed a new collectable coin, with the majority of profits being donated to charity. The Merci Medal is available via the website of the Monnaie de Paris and costs €8, of which €6 will be donated to the Fondation de France initiative “Tous unis contre le virus”, which aims to finance research projects as well as to support local social professionals and charities working with the most vulnerable.​

The medals are already being struck and will be sent out from mid-June, although the Monnaie de Paris has already promised that the first 1,000 will be donated for free to the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris and the CHU de Bordeaux, two institutions at the forefront of the coronavirus fight.

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La Poste increases deliveries

by Steve Martindale

Philippe Wahl, president of the country’s postal system, has announced that La Poste will be increasing the number of weekly deliveries to four. When the lockdown was initially announced, La Poste had restricted deliveries to just three days each week: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

From the week beginning 20th April, post will now also be delivered on Tuesdays. Note that for the subsequent two weeks, deliveries will be made Monday to Thursday, since 1st and 8th May are bank holidays.

The postal system came under pressure in the early days of the lockdown as it fought to strike a balance between protecting its employees and maintaining an important public service. La Poste faced particular criticism for reducing its deliveries to just three days a week from the country’s press, who were unable to deliver daily newspapers.

“We are a nationwide network,” explained Eric Rigaud, the head of a La Poste logistics centre in Limoges, in response to complaints about the time it has taken to adapt to the new health standards required. “As a group, we distribute everywhere, every day and across the whole country. We can not change our organisation from one day to the next as easily as a company with just a few employees.”

Income tax return dates

by Steve Martindale

Despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis, you do unfortunately still need to submit your annual income tax return, although the deadlines have been extended to give people more time to do so. The vast majority of us are required to fill in our tax returns online and the website officially opened for submissions on Monday 20th April.

The deadline for tax declaration varies depending on the department in which you live, and following the extension, the 2020 deadlines for declaring your 2019 income are:

  • Departments 01 to 19 (zone 1) & non-residents – Thursday 4th June at 23:59
  • Departments 20 to 54 (zone 2) – Monday 8th June at 23:59
  • Departments 55 to 974/976 (zone 3) – Thursday 11th June at 23:59
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Court bans Amazon from selling non-essential items

by Steve Martindale

A French court has ordered Amazon to stop selling all but the most essential items while officials assess the safety standards at its warehouses. Fining the online retailer €1m per day if it fails to comply, the court said Amazon had “failed to recognise its obligations regarding the security and health of its workers”. From today the company may now only sell food, hygiene and medical products direct from its warehouses.

Amazon has previously said that it abides by health and safety guidelines and announced it will appeal the ruling.

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