Since I arrived in the UK at the start of the academic year, I have noticed differences in the way that France and the UK have handled the ongoing health crisis. Whilst the UK government’s approach has been characterized by a focus on the economy and hesitant last-minute U-turns, what has it looked like in France?
One stark difference concerns rules around people’s movement and its enforcement. In France, it is mandatory to fill out a travel certificate, known as an attestation de déplacement dérogatoire, in which you record the time you leave your house, the reason for going out and the location you departed from. From March until December 2020, French people had to fill this travel declaration whenever they left their house. Said records enabled the authorities to control citizens’ movements in order to minimize the transmission of Covid-19. A restriction of 1 hour, then 3 hours, was applied as soon as someone left their house. If you were unable to show this document during a police search, you would have had to pay a fine. The government warned the population that the price of the fine increased each time you were unable to show the attestation. As shown in the featured image, few people were walking on the streets of Paris, especially last March.
Afterward, around July 2020, the French government asked people to wear a mask when walking in the street and when inside shops that remained open. Now you are just required to wear one in close spaces and on certain roads. The UK followed suit but with a 10-day delay between the announcement of the guideline and its enforcement. The enforcement of wearing face coverings has only recently been bolstered by the UK’s major supermarkets.
In November and December, a curfew from 6am to 8pm was exerted in France. This meant that socializing at night was off-limits. Like the travel certificate, a fine was to be given if people did not have a valid reason to be outside, or if you were not carrying your work or school travel certificate. Since Thursday 14th January 2021, the French president Emmanuel Macron has reintroduced a curfew, this time from 6am to 6pm. This is more restrictive than the first curfew as it means that most French citizens don’t have time to do their regular tasks, such as doing their grocery shopping or picking up their child from school. A lot of students are still at school at that time and workers still at their workplace. Hence, many French people disagree with this method to deal with the pandemic. On the other hand, the UK remains in its tier system.
Overall, it is difficult to determine the most efficient way to handle the Coronavirus crisis. However, as someone who has had to spend time in two different countries, it has amazed me to see how different governments control, or fail to control, the situation. With the news of a new
variant of the virus, it will be interesting to continue to analyze how countries are going to control the pandemic. But has the UK government learnt its lesson?
Featured image of Grands Boulevards 75002 Paris, France via author.