This is News from France, a weekly review in English, for Sunday 21 March
The focus for this week was:
- further restrictions of movement for people living in 19 northern departments, including the Paris area, because of Covid-19
- Senate approval for a law giving off-duty police officers the right to carry their weapons into theatres unopposed
- and the hunting of songbirds using glue sticks has been banned by the European Court of Justice.
In a flurry of messages over the week, a 4-week restriction of movement and closing of non-essential shops was announced on Thursday for 16 departments, affecting about 21 million people. (“… nouvelles mesures de freinage massives” Jean Castex). The measures came into force from Friday midnight.
The areas are mainly in the north of France, bordering Belgium, but also including the Alpes Maritimes on the southern coastal border with Italy.
Many people left Paris ahead of the lockdown on Friday night – with roads jammed and trains full.
The complexity of new, 2-page forms needed to show to police were simplified at the weekend after widespread criticism. In the new forms, one of 8 reasons need to be given for leaving home between the hours of 7pm and 6 am, and in a second form, one of 12 reasons need to be given for going outdoors between the hours of 6 am and 7pm in the 16 departments.
The number of daily reported cases across France reached more than 30,000 this week and the rollout of the vaccines was hampered by a temporary suspension due to concerns over the Astra Zeneca variety. The programme is expected to be stepped up again this week, across a wider age group. So far 5.63 million people have been vaccinated, according to the Anti-Covid mobile app.
As part of the new security law, the Senate on Thursday passed Article 25 which allows off-duty local officers and gendarmes (national police) to carry their firearms into public buildings such as theatres and shopping centers. It forbids the venue management from preventing the officers bringing in their weapons.
For five years, officers have been able to carry their firearms outside their working shifts if they asked their superiors beforehand. About 30,000 officers are believed to take their guns home with them.
The new measures have already been passed by the National Assembly.
Article 24 of the same law aimed to prevent images of officers being disseminated if that could harm their “physical or mental integrity.”
In a ruling on Wednesday, the European Court of Justice banned the hunting of songbirds with gluesticks.
The practice is used by hunters to lure birds into traps. The birds land on the sticks (verguettes) and can not escape. The sounds they then make attract other birds which are then shot by the hunters.
The method had been banned in the EU in 1979 but the French government had used an opt-out for 6,000 trappers in five departments in the south east, arguing it was “controlled, selective and in limited quantities.”
However, in its judgement, the European Court found otherwise.
The Bird Protection League (LPO) welcomed the ruling, writing on Twitter it was the culmination of a long battle. (L’aboutissement d’un long combat.. https://twitter.com/CourUEPresse/status/1372112765268152323)
The League says French hunters kill millions of birds each year across 64 different species – more than any other European country.