Giving meaning to France’s contradictory social rules against Covid-19

An example of the confusion of guidelines is the current health regulations for weddings. In France, couples who get married can invite up to 10 guests at the town hall, up to 60 in a church and up to 200 in a private place.

The range of regulation is the result of a complex balance of Covid-19 laws, rights and health advice that currently governs life in France.

Restricting private spaces is unconstitutional

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the government has the power to restrict social gatherings only in public places, not in private places.

A specialist in public law told a news source Le Figaro: “It is because the legislators did not foresee the need for it in any legal text like the law of May 23 declaring the state of health emergency, or that of July 9 specifying the exit from the state of emergency sanitary.

The specialist said: “If they tried to introduce the possibility of limiting gatherings in living spaces, lawmakers would face the difficulty of complying with possible bans when the inviolability of domestic spaces is practically a right. constitutional.

This leaves mayors, prefects and presidents of regions little power to regulate parties or weddings taking place in private spaces.

As such, local authorities in France have been left on the prowl when it comes to imposing new health laws.

While the July 9 decree gave them extensive powers to impose new laws as they see fit to regulate their local health situation, in reality, they do not always have the constitutional right to do so.

Not all public places are considered equal

The same principle of constitutional rights in France has led to the relaxation of restrictions to allow religious ceremonies towards the end of confinement. At the start of the 2 months of confinement in France, religious ceremonies were prohibited, but French law guarantees the right to freedom of worship by giving those who wish it a legal remedy.

However, French law becomes more difficult to regulate when it comes to gatherings in spaces such as cemeteries, which are both public and religious spaces.

Such loopholes and legalities have led to scenarios such as the Roland-Garros tennis tournament, exceptionally held from September 21 to October 11 of this year, with a severely restricted number of visitors even though the entire tournament will take place at the outside.

Meanwhile, French courthouses continue to hold public trials, even though they often take place in small, confined rooms.

Science is also crossing the law to issue seemingly contradictory regulations.

When it comes to exercise, dance halls and gyms are much more likely to be regulated than swimming pools. This is because the virus is more likely to be transmitted through the air than through water, making it riskier to run or dance near other people than to swim with them.

And another exception – public spaces that are “social services” such as schools and universities are entitled to a level of autonomy in the way they manage their space and the public that passes through them.

The government can rely less on the law

When the Minister of Health Olivier Véran announced new restrictions and a new map assessing risk levels across France on September 23, he announced no new law to accompany them.

Some see it as a sign that the government is trying to streamline the system.

Serge Slama, professor of law and public rights at the University of Grenoble, said Le Figaro: “In the same way that it is not necessary to pass new laws or to launch anti-terrorism regulations, two new intermediate zones were created by the public authorities thanks to the law of July 9 which extended the state. health emergency. “

“This makes it possible to tighten up regulations without decreeing the health crisis which has led to the state of health emergency and total containment.”

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