France's coronavirus lockdown: What you can and can't do

A police officer patrols the Trocadero square, facing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on day one of France's coronavirus lockdown.
A police officer patrols the Trocadero square, facing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on day one of France's coronavirus lockdown. © Christian Hartmann, REUTERS

A strict 15-day lockdown requiring people in France to remain at home came into effect at midday Tuesday, prohibiting all but essential outings in a bid to curb the coronavirus spread. Here’s a quick guide on how to navigate the lockdown.


"We are at war, a public health war,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a sombre address on Monday, declaring a nationwide lockdown to fight a virus that has already killed 148 people in France and infected more than 6,000.

His government has said tens of thousands of police will be patrolling streets and issuing fines for people without a written declaration justifying their reasons for being out.

FRANCE 24 takes a closer look at the government’s measures and the exceptions to the confinement rules.

Non-essential movements banned

“The message is clear: stay at home,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner declared on Monday as he detailed the restrictions included in the 15-day lockdown. There are five exceptions to that injunction:

  • Travelling to work is permitted so long as the work is essential, cannot be postponed, and cannot be done from home
  • Shopping for groceries and other essential items is allowed; there is no need for panic-buying as supermarkets and bakers can remain open throughout the lockdown
  • Exceptions are also made for “imperative family reasons”, such as looking after children and the elderly. In practice, parents with shared custody can travel between each other’s homes; shopping for an elderly relative is also allowed (as long as people keep to a safe distance when visiting vulnerable relatives)
  • Brief outings to get some exercise or take pets for a walk are allowed, albeit “with parsimony”; Castaner stressed that all group activities, such as playing a football match, are strictly banned 
  • All health-related appointments are permitted, including trips to the pharmacy. For all information on the coronavirus outbreak, dial 08 00 130 000, free of charge. 

Travel pass

All people leaving their homes must carry a signed form, or attestation, explaining where they are headed and why. A different form is needed for each outing. Failure to produce one will result in a fine.

The form can be downloaded here. In the absence of a printer, it can be filled in online and displayed on a smartphone. Alternatively, a written document will be accepted, as long as it is dated and states the person’s full name, address, date of birth and reason for travel.

The form details the five motives listed above; tick the relevant box when filling it in.


Some 100,000 police and gendarmes will be out on the streets to enforce the lockdown and check that people carry a signed attestation. Failure to produce one will result in a 38-euro fine, which may rise to 135 euros at a later stage.

The rules will be enforced throughout continental France and in the overseas territories of Saint-Barthélémy, Saint-Martin and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. They apply until March 31, but may be renewed if deemed necessary.

Exceptions are made for health workers and journalists, who can present their professional cards when travelling for work.

Contrary to rumours circulating before Macron’s announcements on Monday, the French army will not be deployed at this stage to enforce the lockdown. Instead, the military will help transport the sick and set up a field hospital in the hard-hit Alsace region.

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